College Preparation

Guest Writer: Kirk Benner


What makes a successful high school student? There are many ways in which a young person can be successful, but planning ahead is essential. Planning for the college application process starts early in high school which involves college visits, completing high school classes to the best of one’s ability, becoming a well-rounded student who volunteers, participates in extra-curricular activities, and leads well with integrity.

A specific part of the college planning process that often happens in the junior and senior years involves college entrance exams. Along with international students needing to submit an English proficiency exam, like the TOEFL, colleges often require a college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT. During our current experience with the pandemic, some colleges are making these exams optional for admissions, but having a future plan to take these exams is recommended.

School counselors recommend students consider taking both the ACT and SAT (one without and one with the essay), along with SAT Subject tests if required by the college(s) of interest. In most high schools, students take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) in the fall of their junior year. These PSAT results will help a student better prepare to take the actual SAT/ACT in the spring of the junior year and then again early in the fall of the senior year. These exams are offered approximately monthly throughout a typical high school academic year and can be registered for online.

How can a student prepare for taking standardized college entrance exams?

  • Take rigorous high school courses in all subject areas
  • Continue reading, speaking and studying English to expand vocabulary
  • Utilize free resources from ACT & College Board
  • Consider taking test prep courses
  • Have conversations with college admissions personnel about realistic, obtainable scores that will be acceptable for potential admissions

How important are test scores for getting into college?

While these test scores are often a significant part of the college admissions process, they are only a part of what makes an ideal candidate for college. Colleges also look at:

  • High school grades 
  • GPA
  • Involvements and leadership in and outside of high school
  • Volunteering and serving
  • Demonstrating a strong sense of character

The above are all ways to work towards fulfilling the best version of yourself as a high school student preparing for post-secondary educational opportunities.


Kirk Benner, MA |                                                                                 

Assistant Principal & Director of School Counseling                          

Lancaster Mennonite High School                                                       

Lancaster, PA, USA  


After graduating from Lancaster Mennonite High School, Kirk graduated from Millersville University and earned his MA at Messiah College. He has worked in a variety of roles at Lancaster Mennonite High School since 2006 which includes teaching Business Education, serving as Residence Hall Advisor, directing the School Counseling program and most recently serving as Assistant Principal. Kirk enjoys interacting with students and serving in his role and while not at school, he values spending time with his wife, daughter and extended family.  

Kirk Benner


This Thanksgiving is going to look different for a lot of us. With COVID restrictions, it has made traveling and seeing loved ones much more difficult. We know this can be disappointing!

Thankfully, you will be together with your host family and this holiday season will be a great opportunity to spend quality time doing fun activities together!

We would love to see what you and your host family are up to during this time of creative celebrating! 


1. Follow AHLI on Instagram @amhomelife.

2. Direct message us either on Instagram or Facebook with a picture of you and your host family celebrating Thanksgiving. 

3. We will pick the top 2 photos and share them on our Instagram page! (The 2 winners will each receive a $10 gift card to the place of their choosing)


Find me on WeChat and tell me your Thanksgiving Plans!