This week we’re featuring an essay from Julie Comer – a runner-up in our recent Stop-Painting Scholarship competition.

Comer, an undergraduate student at Clemson University, hopes to attend graduate school and become a physician assistant. Comer says when she first began her college career she quickly realized her organization skills were going to keep her from succeeding.  So she came up with a plan to organize her studies – and her life. Comer, who knew she was a visual learner, used visual organization to make her studies and college life more productive. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t organized myself as a freshman,” said Comer. “Organization is key to success in not only college but all aspects of life as well. Without organization our world and life would be very messy and hard to deal with.”

While Comer wasn’t awarded the scholarship for the latest scholarship cycle (Dylan Thorp was the award recipient for the fall 2016 cycle), we hope she and other applicants will try again. Our next award cycle will deadline in March 2017, with funds being applied to Spring 2017 semester tuition. This scholarship provides $1,000 for a full-time student. Our next cycle is targeted toward graduate students and executive education students. You can see all the details and apply here:

Here’s the essay prompt scholarship applicants were asked to use: At Stop-Painting, we believe that superior organization and clearly defined visual cues help pave the way for increased productivity, both in the workplace and at home. How do you use organization and visual cues to simplify your life?

Here’s Julie Comer’s essay:

Coming to college was very difficult for me. 

In high school I was very unorganized, at school and at home. So the first month at school was a reevaluation period for myself. I looked at what my desk looked like, what my room looked like, and realized that my problem wasn’t that I wasn’t capable. It was that I wasn’t organized. 

At first I tried to just keep my room and desk tidy but I soon realized that being neat wasn’t the only thing I needed to do. I am a visual person, meaning that if I learn better by sight than anything else. So organization was easier for me when I associated a color with each class. The first thing that I did was get 5 colored binders along with a matching folders. In each binder I had three sections: notes taken in class, book notes, and in-class handouts. The folders that went along with each held homework or work that needed to be done and returned. This system became something that I stuck with. It helped me to keep each class separate and focus on the work that needed to be done. However, I noticed that even with the notebooks I was still falling behind. I thought that I could just remember what work needed to be done but I couldn’t, I was missing assignments because I would just write them on a page in my binder and forget. The next part of my organizational pattern really helped me a lot. It was a large planner that had a calendar view that I could write important dates on and a weekly view where I could write assignments and small things down. 

In addition to my planner, I got a weekly hourly study schedule from my academic counselor. This allowed me to map out times for homework and studying around my classes for the week. The hourly schedule turned out to be very useful in helping me make time to do the assignments that my professors had given me. 

Now that I am a junior I have added a few more adjustments to my organizational habits. I now have a lot of reading that comes with each class so I keep notes from the text books in their own binder so my in-class notes don’t get cluttered and are easy to read. 

I also have implemented the Cornell Method for taking notes. Not only are they easier to study from but they keep my note-taking organized as well. That way of notetaking makes me focus of what information is useful, what is important, and keeps track of key topics. It also makes it easier for me to align my book notes with notes I take in class when I am trying to study for a test. 

I used to think that just taking notes and paying attention in class is what made you a good student. I didn’t think about all the other, harder aspects of being in college like managing your own life. Organization has also made it easier for me to manage my money. Unlike a lot of kids, my parents don’t send me grocery money at school. I usually get babysitting gigs as a way to make money for groceries and sometimes I have to figure out what I really need because I don’t have a lot of money. One thing that I have started doing is budgeting myself. I keep a book of my bank account balance at the beginning of each week and allow myself a certain amount to use. From this I map out what I can spend on groceries and what I can spend if my friends want to go out to eat. Also in this binder I keep grocery lists. Each week I make a new one and that way I can adapt it to the current week’s bank account information. Although this may seem tedious, it helps me to remain financially stable without my parents having to fork out money on me. I truly believe that my bank account/grocery list binder is the key to this working. Without it I would be going in blind and may have run out of money long ago. 

I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t organized myself as a freshman. Organization is key to success in not only college but all aspects of life as well. Without organization our world and life would be very messy and hard to deal with. 

Learn More about the Stop-Painting Scholarship Program