The first of Yale’s life lessons you learn is that getting in was only half the battle.

Maybe not even half. There’s schoolwork to contend with, the flurry of a cappella auditions or extracurricular applications, internship cover letters and the CourseTable browsing sessions with all of registration’s course interest applications. There are enough sets of hoops to pass through to make college applications pale by comparison.

A handful of those efforts might come to fruition. Perhaps a seminar will place you on the waitlist if you’re lucky, or you’ll perform just well enough to make callbacks. But you spend most of the time acquainting yourself with rejection emails.

Often, those unassuming invitation flyers or syllabi advertising space for “all levels of experience” don’t quite live up to reality. Yes — prior experience might not be necessary — but it doesn’t help when you’re matching up against others who are vastly more seasoned and qualified. In a place like Yale, you probably had to have picked up the pen in third grade or created a portfolio dense enough at this point to find a seat at that writing workshop. You had to have fallen in love with the violin somewhere between age 6 and 12 to reasonably land a spot with the symphonic orchestra. At times, I’ve felt as if our lives had to be predetermined from the very start of childhood, with every step building incrementally to the success of some grander plan.

The selectiveness is frustrating yet understandable. Not every class or club can cater to the size of the interest they command. There are simply limits to entrance, some of them based on inevitable differences in experience or skill.

But rejection, no matter how soft-handedly dealt, still stings. We’re our harshest critics, and it’s tempting to craft warped narratives in which we are destined for failure when a single application goes awry. Missed out on the internship? Maybe you’ll have nothing to do this summer. Never got into the orchestra? Blame your middle school chair auditions, your musical mediocrity, or those afternoons back in fifth grade when you abandoned Bach to peck at your self-made, sloppy renditions of Taylor Swift. Give up. Call it quits. Pack away the books and felt-lined instrument cases, because maybe you were never cut out for music.

This destructive reflection—this fault-finding when outcomes don’t turn out as we’d wanted to—helps no one. We’re not the products of perfect linear plans or five-step self-improvement regimens. When we shape our lives too closely to a self-imposed plan, we succumb to nagging regrets and self-doubt. We deny the fullness of our past selves when we squint through the filters of qualifications and cover letters.

And yet I wish we could have more opportunities open to everyone, spaces where we can learn to flail and fail without the judgment of our peers or future employers, where there are no trophies to be won or personal reputations to defend.

I’m halfway through my junior year now and five-eighths of the way to graduation, a pair of fractions that escapes every attempt I make to wrap my mind around them. It’s a time when extracurriculars and classes have settled into their familiar groove. I’ve sent out some cover letters for internships; I’ve picked out the usual creative writing courses and filled out the forms; I’ve applied to some extracurriculars, without much success. Life’s routines boil down to a strange kind of clockwork: the sun finishes carving its path across the sky before 4:50 p.m., and from my desk I usually watch the light fade away into a faint smear of yellow off the Malone Engineering Center’s windows. I usually have dinner at 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m., then work or read until 11:00 p.m.. I repeat it all again at 7:00 p.m..

What I’m saying is that we’ve fallen into a predictable stasis, where wills and mights are becoming would-haves and what-ifs. Sometimes there’s a lurking sense of dread, as if it’s too late to begin — as if some of the doors have started closing behind us and can’t be opened again. I’m afraid that others are too far ahead and that I’ve somehow missed out on the chance to begin something new again. I just finished Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being for an English class, and I’m reminded of the ways in which its characters marry, move, and betray each other, failing to shape their lives into anything close to the grand visions they had in mind.

I want the sense of possibility to be as full and alive as it was that first time we stepped through Phelps gate. To do that, we’ll need to open our clubs and classes to accommodate those whose passions and interests make up for their lack of experience. In a place that’s committed to exploration and self-discovery on paper, we should fulfill that promise of bringing more opportunities for everyone.

But maybe the change also comes from within ourselves. We must remember that we still have time. We will always have time. We’ll retry, reapply and start again. It is never too late.