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Surviving the Williams College Swim Requirement

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There are many rumors around why William requires that all students learn how to swim. Some that I have heard in my short time here include a rich donor insisting that students learn to swim, a story about Ephraim Williams nearly drowning once, and one as simple as just NESCAC schools encouraging swim education. Nevertheless, the swim requirement is VERY real.


Growing up in New York City, I rarely found myself in situations where I needed to swim. As a kid, I remember taking a few classes but nothing ever came of them except a development of anxiety and fear in the water. When I learned about the swim requirement at WIlliams, my heart dropped. It was one of the few things I was not looking forward to about college.


Now that I have completed the class, I wanted to put together a list of tips and advice I wish someone would have told me before taking the class.

  1. Be open minded.

    1. It’s very easy to tell yourself you can’t do something before you even try it. Instead, I learned to be vulnerable and trust my instructor. That’s when I found myself actually learning how to swim.

  2. Invest in a good swimsuit and goggles.

    1. It’s extremely important that you feel comfortable in the water. A swimsuit that fits comfortably and does not weigh you down in the water can be extremely helpful. Goggles are also crucial because they allow you to actually see what you are doing! Imagine trying to learn a new skill and not being able to see what you are doing.

  3. Go to bed at a reasonable time

    1. Because of swim/dive team practices later in the day, beginners swim takes place mainly in the morning, and I mean EARLY (7:30am). With that being said, going to bed at a reasonable time is so important and can make the thought of going to swim a little less miserable than if you only got three hours of sleep the night before.

  4. Moisturize

    1. Chlorine can be extremely drying so please make sure to moisturize after class. Some of my favorite products to use were Nivea cocoa butter lotion, LUSH Full of Grace, and Neutrogena moisturizer.


  1. Take care of your hair

    1. Continuing on the fact that chlorine can be extremely drying, pool water can also take a toll on your locks. Make sure you are deep conditioning or using a hair mask after classes. My favorite conditioner that packs an extra moisturizing punch iis Aussie moist.

  2. Schedule in some naps

    1. If you don’t have a class right after swim, try and squeeze in a nap. You may not feel like you need it in the moment, but trust me morning swims can take a toll on you and that crash period might hit you later on in the day.




Learning to swim can be very daunting, at least for me it was. However I am glad I did. Learning how to swim gave me a new level of self confidence and trust in myself. I also learned a really useful skill that I did not have access to learning as a New York CIty kid with a busy family that could not take me to swim lessons. While the process was stressful at times, and waking up at 7:00 am was not fun, I am proud to say I got through it.


Elba Obregon

Williams '21

Elba Obregon is a senior at Williams College who is originally from New York City. She is an American Studies major, and a Latina Studies concentrator. When she isn't writitng for HerCampus, Elba can be found making sure the HC Williams chapter is running smoothly as CC this year!
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