Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, a service that manages applications to UK higher education courses, has stated recently that the quintessential young person experience known as the ‘Gap Year’ should be renamed the ‘Bridging Year.’ This time off between high school and university is traditionally used by young people for backpacking across Europe, volunteering in an Orphanage in Peru, or participating in some other working abroad scheme where they learn more about themselves and the world around them. It is also a chance to clearly decide what they want to spend the next four years studying at university. However, Curnock Cook said that instead, the ‘Bridging Year’ should be used
by students to “enhance their attractiveness” to universities. Gillian Low, president of the Girl’s Schools Association has replied to the statement, defending the benefit of a year spent exploring. Mrs Low said: “In the current climate of competition for university places, I can of course understand the rationale for her advice, but must we really forget in entirety travelling to, say, Asia or South America, contributing to local communities in worthwhile ways, the buzz of adventure and discovery, making great friends and experiencing life around the world? “Can they not be carefree, be young, for even a short time, and in that time, develop the confidence and resilience they will so badly need, broaden their interests, grow up and experience life independent of their parents?” She added: “We must be careful not to squash the natural idealism, the sense of adventure and the innate passion of young people into utilitarian boxes, where everything must be ‘strategic’, ‘focused’ and ‘targeted’, however difficult the times. Society must remember just how precious, and vulnerable, youth is, and protect it.” What do you think? How did you spend your Gap Year? Was it time well spent? Please share your stories!