BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Lin Shan is not sure if she will make it through the Beijing Film Academy (BFA) entrance exam this year. She was edged out of the competition last year.
"The academy is just very difficult to enter," said Lin, from east China's Shandong Province. "But I have always dreamt of becoming a performing artist."
Nearly 10,000 would-be actors and actresses will vie for 100 highly coveted places in the acting department at the BFA, which has trained many of China's TV and movie stars.
Other competitive departments include directing, scriptwriting, production and editing. Admission rates in these departments are as low as 0.5 percent.
A number of measures have been taken to ensure a fairer and more open admission process, such as including more industry figures on the admissions panel.
The surge of applicants has followed the rapid development of film and online video in China.
Box office revenue rose 13.4 percent in 2017 to 56 billion yuan (8.7 billion U.S. dollars), with domestic films contributing 53.8 percent, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT).
In the first half of 2017 alone, about 5,000 online films, series, cartoons and documentaries were registered with the SAPPRFT.
"I have loved watching Kung Fu films since I was a little kid and always wanted to become an action film star," said Li Zhenbiao, 18. "This year, I have applied for several performing arts colleges."
LITTLE STUDENTS, BIG DREAMS
A big screen on the BFA campus displayed a line from a popular Chinese song: "Anyone with dreams is a great individual."
Many applicants stood in the chilly weather in Beijing to wait for the wheel of fortune to turn and make them the country's next superstar.
Ms. Wang, from Taiwan, accompanied her daughter to the BFA to take part in this year's exam.
"My daughter loves singing and performing," Wang said. "She thinks that the BFA can help her learn many things, so we came here."
Wang said she is very supportive of her daughter's ambition to make it in the industry.
"Even if she fails this year, we will come back next year," she said.
The performing arts academies in China have turned out some of the biggest names in the TV and film industry, including Ziyi Zhang and Zhao Wei, and many students dream of becoming superstars like them.
But competition is fiercer than ever.
A record number of high school graduates have applied for two of the top performing arts schools in China.
More than 45,000 students are taking the BFA entrance exam, 18 percent more than last year, the school said Tuesday. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 students have applied for the Shanghai Theater Academy. Over 6,000 will compete for 100 places in the acting department. Just one in every 126 applicants will make it.
Despite the cut-throat competition, many applicants are determined to make their dreams come true. Some say they have been practicing their skills for years just to enter the academies, and some others simply want to gain overnight fame and celebrity.
"Even if I do not make it, it's worth a shot," said a BFA applicant. "At least I won't sit at home regretting in the future."
Sun Lijun, vice president of the BFA, said that the soaring development of the cultural industry, the rising number of cinemas and the vast spread of the Internet all contributed to the rising number of applicants.
"Many people are charmed by films and TV series and have realized the demand for talent in the industry," said Hou Guangming, Party chief of the BFA. "More people dream to make it big in films and TV series."
Many parents and students think that the art academies have lower requirements on exam scores than other universities -- another reason behind the art academies' popularity.
"It's easier than sitting the gaokao," said one student, referring to China's national college entrance exam.
Last year, 9.4 million Chinese high school students took part in the gaokao for college admissions.
But in recent years, the art academies have paid more attention to applicants' academic scores, so there are more challenges for students who want to enter show business.
"I think the applicants should think carefully before making the decision to try performing arts colleges," said Hou Juan, with Communication University of China. "They should put their interests first in choosing colleges, rather than blindly following trends."