College Tips from Alumnus Zeke Whetstone

During a meeting with the senior class on Monday, Nov. 19, Whetstone presented tips and tricks to succeed in college.


Beau Dickerson

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS – Zeke Whetstone, 2018 AHS graduate and recipient of the Hixson scholarship, explains the path to success in college.

2018 graduate Zeke Whetstone re-entered the halls of Atlantic High School with a smile and a wish to help prepare seniors for their college experience by sharing some of his own findings. Whetstone currently attends Iowa State University as a first-generation college student, and initially began as an undecided major. He wants incoming college freshmen to know that “it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do.”

Prior to high school, Whetstone said he had thoughts of becoming a physical therapist or a real estate agent. “All I know is I didn’t want to own the car wash.” As he began his education at Iowa State, Whetstone attended the ClubFest in hopes of finding something that would pique his interest. “Try to keep an open mind,” Whetstone advised. After two months, he found his major: event management. He has also already obtained an internship in Des Moines. 

Growing up as a “die-hard” Hawkeye fan, most would’ve expected Whetstone to attend the University of Iowa. However, he suggested that students avoid choosing their school “based on the mascot,” and instead advocated for campus visits, as that can possibly be a selling point in the decision process. It can also give incoming college freshmen an idea of both campus and lecture hall sizes. “The campus is just as important as the education,” he said.

It’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do.

— Zeke Whetstone

Another piece of advice that Whetstone had for listeners included applying for scholarships. “Do as many as you possibly can…small scholarships will add up very fast.” Even though scholarships “aren’t very fun,” the payoff is huge. Whetstone himself received the Hixson Opportunity Award: a half-tuition grant awarded to those who, according to Whetstone, “may not get the best test scores, may not do the best in school, but show that they can advance the community and make something special of their lives.” This grant is awarded to one hundred students from across Iowa, with the goal of one recipient per county.

The biggest change Whetstone said he noticed through the transition from high school to college was the level of independence. When it comes to homework and studying, students are expected to hold themselves accountable. “There’s no asking the teacher for help,” Whetstone said. He expressed the need for learning how to study after making his own mistakes. “I never studied in high school and that came back to bite me,” Whetstone said. Those who find it unnecessary to study in high school may encounter some struggles when they get to college. However, students need to remember that “a bad exam grade is not the end of the world.”

I never studied in high school and that came back to bite me.

— Zeke Whetstone

One of the most important things Whetstone said he did as he acclimated to the college climate, was taking time to focus on himself. He advises everyone to do so, and to also “take all the classes you want so you enjoy your education.” Whetstone accredits social studies teacher Tony Wiley for helping prepare him for the style of note-taking in college and mentioned that the lecture style and workload are also similar. As far as the staff at AHS goes, Whetstone said, “Do appreciate them and let them help you.”

Building a support system is another “very valuable” aspect when it comes to succeeding in college. “Let them help,” Whetstone said. This support system can comprise of many different people, such as friends, family, roommates and college advisors.

Although Whetstone said he knew he “wanted to get out of Atlantic really fast” while he was still in high school, he now expresses that “time goes a lot faster than you expect,” and said that students should appreciate their days at AHS.