I remember struggling to wake up before the sun on a Saturday during my sophomore year of high school.

As I stumbled to the kitchen, I found my mother insisting I eat a complete, hot breakfast for the first time that week.

As we made our way down the driveway, I went over a few algebraic equations and tried to remember the difference between a homonym and a homophone.

Then, in just a few short miles, we arrived. Although seeing the familiar parking lot crowded with students was a familiar scene, this particular day was different.

And it was nerve-wracking.

I entered the building with my graphing calculator and identification and stood in line to register for the ACT.

Sure, I got used to the routine after taking the test an impressive six times throughout high school, but that first time really got to me.

I was rattled by the quiet that spread across the room and the sterility of the walls that had been wiped of anything that could have aided in our test-taking.

The occasional need to clear my throat was horrifying, as I knew the sound would bounce across the room.

I panicked while searching for answers in the reading section as the words jumbled together and the clock ticked toward the end of my 30-minute time limit.

However, the craziest thing about this whole experience is that I survived it. I may not have gotten the score I wanted that first time, but I got through it.

Although most students probably share my anxiety for this college entrance exam, I've spoken with many local students who have gone into it with bravery.

And while they were in the seventh-grade.

Many students in the Conway School District are involved with a talent identification program through Duke University that allows bright young minds to try the ACT at age 12.

Whenever I get the opportunity to speak with these students whose middle school scores surpass my final totals, many say they wanted to take the test to prepare for college.

I always grin when I hear them say that. When I was in middle school, I don't know if I could even name two Arkansas colleges, let alone my intended major.

This proves these kids are far more ready than I was. And being able to take these tests early does prepare them for what's ahead in high school and what's to eventually come in college.

So whether you're a recently graduated senior looking to raise your score and boost that scholarship or a middle school student testing the ACT waters, good luck.

It may just be "only a test," but it's a test that can change your immediate future and your entire life.

(Staff writer Jessica Bauer can be reached by e-mail at jessica.bauer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)