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The Ivy Coach Daily

June 11, 2023

Dartmouth Swim Test Eliminated as Graduation Requirement

Dartmouth Swim Test Eliminated As Graduation Requirement
Dartmouth College eliminated its swim test as a graduation requirement.

Originally Published on October 3, 2018:

For over a century, Dartmouth College required its students to complete a 50-yard swim test to graduate from the Ivy League institution. The test was not timed and could be done at any point during a student’s four years in Hanover, though most students finished the test after their first-year DOC trips before the start of first-year classes. Students with disabilities or other medical exceptions, of course, were not required to complete the test. But is the test alive and well in 2023?

Dartmouth Eliminated the Swim Test in 2022

As it turns out, the Dartmouth swimming requirement was sadly eliminated in September 2022, effective for the Class of 2026. After the suspension of the swim test during the years of the pandemic, the Dartmouth faculty voted to nix the requirement, instead requiring students to complete three physical education or wellness credits.

Dartmouth’s Swim Test Was Long in Peril

Yet it’s not as though the Dartmouth faculty never debated the continuation of the swim test as a graduation requirement before the start of the pandemic.

Back in 2018, Dartmouth’s athletics department created a committee to determine whether the school should continue mandating the swim test as a graduation requirement. The committee ultimately chose to maintain the provision, and the Dartmouth faculty later approved this decision.

Other Top Universities Still Require Swim Tests

And while Dartmouth has dropped the swim test as a graduation requirement (as has the University of Notre Dame), some top universities — Cornell University, Columbia University, Bryn Mawr College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Swarthmore College — still mandate that students learn to swim.

Why Some Colleges Are Debating Required Swim Tests

But the swim test may not be around for much longer at these institutions either. One of the key reasons many oppose continuing a swim test as a graduation requirement is that it places low-income students — often underrepresented minorities — at a disadvantage since many did not grow up with access to pools and regular swimming lessons.

Ivy Coach’s counterargument? What better time to learn one of the most important life skills than during a student’s college years? Heck, in the Jewish faith, as written in The Talmud, one of the three most important things to teach one’s child is to swim. It was true in biblical times. It’s true today in 2023.

Ivy Coach Salutes Dartmouth for Requiring a Swim Test for Over a Century

Three Jones Beach Lifeguards stand in bathing suits arm in arm at Jones Beach, including Ivy Coach's Brian Taylor.

While we are saddened that Dartmouth has dropped the swim test as a graduation requirement, we salute the College on the Hill for maintaining the critical tradition for over a century. In addition to being proud Dartmouth alums, we’re proud alums of the Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps. We’ve pulled dozens of people from rip tides and sweeps at New York State’s beaches. In a flash, knowing how to swim can be the difference between life and death.

Ivy Coach Implores Dartmouth to Bring Back the Swim Requirement

It’s why we hope Dartmouth (and Notre Dame) will reinstate the swimming requirement. Just as Dartmouth reinstated its swimming and diving teams (not once but twice!) after their elimination, it’s our hope that Dartmouth’s administration will bring this tradition back for good. Heck, it should be a graduation requirement at every college from sea to shining sea. Kudos to Cornell, Columbia, Bryn Mawr, MIT, Notre Dame, and Swarthmore for keeping the swim requirement alive. May these institutions not change course anytime soon. It’s too important.

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