BEIJING, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Outside the campus of the Communication University of China, Zhang Ke carries her drawing board and pigments as she hurries to another exam site in Beijing in the chilly wind.
"I applied for three art majors this year, and I have entered the final rounds for all three," Zhang said.
The entrance exams for art academies have begun in China, and students from across the country are striving to try to secure a place in the college of their dreams.
In Beijing, the number of applicants to famous art colleges, including Communication University of China, Beijing Film Academy and the Central Academy of Drama, all reported a record number of applicants this year.
The admission exam of the Beijing Film Academy began Saturday, with close to 60,000 applicants joining in the competition, a year-on-year increase of 31 percent, according to the academy. The academy plans to recruit 520 students this year, 30 more than in 2018, for its 16 schools and departments.
A total of 10,454 students have applied for the academy's Performing Arts School, which will enroll only 60 students, based on candidates' performances during the art exam and their results in gaokao -- China's national college entrance examination.
Among the 24 majors open for application, new media art reported the biggest growth, with a year-on-year increase of 284.36 percent in the number of applicants.
Similar situations can be found in the Central Academy of Drama, where more than 67,000 applicants are competing for 573 positions. The number of this year's applicants is the highest in the academy's history.
In the Communication University of China, about 50,000 have taken part in the college's exam. More than 10,000 students have applied for the university's performing arts major, which will recruit just 26.
In the face of cut-throat competition, students like Zhang Ke are trying their best to make their artistic dreams come true.
"I always loved paintings and cartoons," Zhang said. "When I was in high school, I was determined to study a major related to cartoons. I hope one day I can create an iconic cartoon character."
Zhang Weinan, from east China's Jiangxi Province, has a passion for performing arts.
"My family did not support me in pursuing art because they thought it would be too difficult," said Zhang, all smiles. "But I adore performing, and I chose to chase my dream."
Many parents also showed up to give moral support to their children.
Han Gaoming, 48, took his daughter all the way from the northern Shanxi Province to Beijing to chase her dream of being a director.
"I have been encouraging her," Han said. "She wants to be a director in the future."
Han said his daughter often directed high school programs and he hopes she can make it into one of the art colleges.
Art colleges in China have been raising demands on applicants' "comprehensive abilities" by requiring good exam scores in literature, history and philosophy. Han calls the change "very important."
"I think it's necessary to cultivate children's comprehensive abilities," Han said. "But my biggest wish is for my daughter to be happy, and I wish her all the best in the exams."