How to Get an eSports Scholarship



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Did you know that you can actually get scholarship money for playing video games? It’s true! Even though eSports only started being offered as a varsity college sport a few years ago,

today over 100 schools have official eSports teams. On top of that, many of them offer eSports scholarships!

So how can you get some of this money for yourself? In this guide, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about eSports scholarships, including which schools offer scholarships (and how much those scholarships are worth), which games are most popular to play on college teams, and how you can earn one of these video game scholarships.

What Is eSports?


eSports, also known as electronic sports, is

organized, competitive video gaming.

As opposed to someone casually playing an individual video game in their room, eSports involves individuals or teams competing against each other in organized tournaments, often for cash prizes.

As video games became more and more popular, eSports began to develop in the 1990s, and it’s now a billion dollar industry with tens of millions of people taking part, either as spectators or competitors. Major competitions are shown on TV, and there are

rumors

eSports might make it to the Olympics as a demonstration sport sometime soon.

While there are some single-player eSports tournaments, most are team-based games.

Some of the most popular eSports games (as well as those with the largest prizes for winning) are Counter-Strike, DOTA 2, Fortnite, League of Legends, Madden NFL, and Overwatch.

Varsity eSports teams at US colleges began in 2014, and today well over 100 colleges and universities have eSports teams and are part of the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE).

Who Usually Qualifies for eSports Scholarships?


You likely know of gamers who’ve won massive amounts of money in competitions, six or seven figures even. Before you get your hopes up, know that this isn’t the kind of money you’ll be seeing if you get an eSports scholarship. Some schools do offer five-figure or full-tuition scholarships for eSports players, but these are rare and very competitive.

The majority of video game scholarships are a few thousand dollars a year.

This can be a great help when paying for college, but it isn’t going to make you rich.

There are two main ways to join an eSports team and be eligible for scholarships.

Some schools will have tryouts that only current students can compete for.

Those that make the team will receive a scholarship if the school offers them.

Other schools have a longer, more competitive recruiting process that involves

sending recruiters or coaches to major tournaments to scout for potential recruits

and hosting tryouts when players are still in high school. Alternatively,

you can contact coaches

at these schools and fill out a recruiting form to get your name out there and begin the recruiting process. The coach will invite players they’re interested in to campus for interviews, conversations with current members, and a tryout. While the results of the tryout will depend heavily on your skills, other factors, such as how well you mesh with current members, what your grades are like, and what openings there are on the team will also impact whether or not you’re offered a spot. If you pass, the coach will then offer you a place on the team, potentially along with a scholarship.

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What Schools Offer Gaming Scholarships?


In the chart in the next section, you might notice that a lot of the schools that offer eSports scholarships are on the smaller side.

This is because many of them have begun using eSports as a way to entice potential students who may not have otherwise heard of their school.

Larger big-name schools already have name recognition to draw applicants and a large student body to create an eSports team, so they have less incentive to offer scholarships.

The University of Utah, with about 25,000 undergrad students, is one of the largest schools to offer an eSports scholarship, and they offer the relatively small amount of $1,000 per year. Despite that, it’s very competitive to get a place on the team; in 2018, roughly 200 players tried out for 33 spots. The high interest is likely because the University of Utah has one of the highest-ranked video game design programs in the country, so they’re already attracting a lot of gamers to their campus through their academics.

Smaller schools and those without large gaming programs need to offer larger scholarships to get gamers to choose their eSports team over other schools’ teams.

eSports Scholarships of Note

Below we go into more detail on four gaming scholarships that you should be especially aware of, either because of the large amount of money they offer, or their eSports history.


Harrisburg University

Harrisburg University has less than 1,000 students, but it’s putting a lot of resources into building a strong eSports team.

This includes offering players full-ride scholarships

if they earn a spot on the team. The eSports team is in fact the school’s only varsity sports team, and the 26 student athletes play Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Overwatch.


Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University was the first college in the country to offer eSports scholarships in 2014. They continue to lead the pack by offering some of the largest eSports scholarships,

up to $19,000 a year.


Stephens College

Stephens College is

the first women’s college to have a varsity eSports team

as well as the first women’s college to offer eSports scholarships. Because eSports teams skew heavily male, Stephens College developed its eSports teams as a way to encourage more women to become involved in eSports and receive scholarships for their eSports achievements. Their team currently has six main team members and six substitute members. Any current student can try out for the team, and every member/substitute receives a partial athletic scholarship.


University of California, Irvine

As the first public university to create an official eSports program, UC Irvine has developed

some of the most highly regarded eSports college teams in the country,

and it’s often ranked as one of the best schools for gamers to attend. They frequently offer scholarships for different eSports, and students typically receive a $1,000 yearly scholarship if they earn a spot on a JV team and a $6,000 yearly scholarship if they’re on a varsity team. As opposed to recruiting high school students, UC Irvine usually holds tryouts in early fall, and any current student can try to earn a spot on an eSports team.

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List of Schools That Offer eSports Scholarships

Most eSports scholarships are partial tuition, ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars a year. There are some full tuition eSports scholarships, but these are very rare. Below are the schools that offer gaming scholarships, along with the state they’re in, their NACE division, and the scholarship amount. You can click on the school’s name to get more information on its eSports program.


School


Location


NACE Division


Scholarship Amount


Alma College

Michigan

Division III

$1,500 a year


Ashland University

Ohio

Division II

Up to $4,000 a year


Barton College

North Carolina

Division II

$2,000 a year


Bay State College

Massachusetts

Division III

Varies


Becker College

Massachusetts

Division III

$500 to $5,000 a year


Bellevue University

Nebraska

NAIA

Varies


Benedictine University Mesa

Arizona

NAIA

Varies


Boise State University

Idaho

Division I

Varies


Brescia University

Kentucky

NAIA

Varies


Catawba College

North Carolina

Division II

Varies


Central Christian College of Kansas

Kansas

NAIA

Varies


Central Methodist University

Missouri

NAIA

Varies


Centralia College

Washington

NWAC

Varies


Cincinnati Christian University

Ohio

NAIA

Up to full tuition


Coker College

South Carolina

Division II

Varies


College of St. Joseph

Vermont

Division II/NAIA

$2,000 a year


Columbia College

Missouri

NAIA

Varies


Culver-Stockton College

Missouri

NAIA

Varies


Dakota Wesleyan University

South Dakota

NAIA

Varies


Defiance College

Ohio

Division III

$1,500 per year


ECPI University

Virginia

N/A

Up to $5,000 per year


Florida Southern College

Florida

Division II

Varies


Fontbonne University

Missouri

Division III

$2,000 a year


Georgia State University

Georgia

Division I

Varies


Grand View University

Iowa

NAIA

Varies


Harrisburg University

Pennsylvania

N/A

Up to full tuition


Hartwick College

New York

Division III

Varies


Illinois College

Illinois

Division III

$15,000 to $20,000 a year


Indiana Institute of Technology

Indiana

NAIA

Varies


Juniata College

Pennsylvania

Division III

Up to $2,500 a year


Kansas Wesleyan University

Kansas

NAIA

Varies


King University

Tennessee

Division II

Varies


Lackawanna College

Pennsylvania

NJCAA

Varies


Lebanon Valley College

Pennsylvania

Division III

$2,500 a year


Lees-McRae College

North Carolina

Division II

$1,000-$5,000 a year


Lourdes University

Ohio

NAIA

Varies


Maryville University

Missouri

Division II

Varies


Menlo College

California

NAIA

Varies


Miami (Ohio) University

Ohio

Division I

Varies


Midland University

Nebraska

NAIA

Varies; some include room and board


Missouri Baptist University

Missouri

NAIA

Varies


Missouri Valley College

Missouri

NAIA

Up to $12,000 a year


Molloy College

New York

Division II

Varies


Morningside College

Iowa

NAIA

Up to $5,000 a year


Mount St. Joseph University

Ohio

Division III

$2,000 a year


New England College

New Hampshire

Division III

Varies


Northwest Christian University

Oregon

NAIA

Varies


Ohio Northern University

Ohio

Division III

Up to $2,000 a year


Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon

NAIA

$500 a year


Park University

Missouri

NAIA

Varies


Principia College

Illinois

Division III

Varies


Randolph-Macon College

Virginia

Division III

Varies


Robert Morris University

Illinois

NAIA

Up to $19,000 a year


Schreiner University

Texas

Division III

$1,000 a year


Siena Heights University

Michigan

NAIA

Varies


Southern New Hampshire University

New Hampshire

Division II

$3,000 a year


Southwest Baptist University

Missouri

Division II

Varies


Southwestern College

Kansas

NAIA

Up to $5,000 a year


St. Thomas Aquinas College

New York

Division II

Varies


St. Thomas University

Florida

NAIA

Varies


Stephens College

Missouri

NAIA

Varies


Stevenson University

Maryland

Division III

Varies


Texas Wesleyan

Texas

Division II

$2,000 a year


Thomas College

Maine

Division III

Varies


Tiffin University

Ohio

Division II

$3,000 a year


Trine University

Indiana

Division III

Varies


University of Akron

Ohio

Division I

$1,000 to $5,000 a year


University of California-Irvine

California

Division I

$1,000 to $6,000 a year


University of Jamestown

North Dakota

NAIA

Up to $2,000 a year


University of Missouri

Missouri

Division I

Varies


University of Mount Union

Ohio

Division III

Varies


University of North Texas

Texas

Division I

Varies


University of Pikeville

Kentucky

NAIA

Varies


University of Providence

Montana

NAIA

Varies


University of Saint Mary

Kansas

NAIA

Varies


University of South Carolina-Sumter

South Carolina

NJCAA

Varies


University of the Cumberlands

Kentucky

NAIA

Varies


University of Utah

Utah

Division I

$1,000 a year


Upper Iowa University

Iowa

Division II

Varies


West Virginia Wesleyan College

West Virginia

Division II

Varies

Private eSports Scholarships

It’s also possible to earn an eSports scholarship through an organization rather than a school. These two organizations offer eSports scholarships to prospective or current college students



Entertainment Software Association

The ESA, the organization that represents video game publishers, offers several eSports scholarships.

The organization hopes to expand the number of women and minorities who play eSports,

but they have scholarships available to all eSports players, with different award amounts and for different games.



Gamers Helping Gamers

This need-based scholarship by non-profit organization Gamers Helping Gamers is for Magic: The Gathering players. The website doesn’t state how much the scholarship is worth, but

the application is pretty quick and easy to fill out,

so there isn’t a huge time-commitment to apply. Each year there are two winners, either high school seniors or current college students.

3 Tips to Help You Get an eSports Scholarship

There are lots of options for video game scholarships, but how can you maximize your chances of getting some of that money for yourself? Here are our three best tips.

#1: Know How Teams You’re Interested in Recruit

As we mentioned above, schools can recruit for eSports teams in several ways. They may simply hold tryouts for current students at the school, or they could have a more involved process that involves recruiters and starts while potential team members are still in high school.

If there are schools whose eSports teams you are particularly considering, check out their websites to learn how new members can join the team.

They will often have information on when tryouts are or who you can contact to get the ball rolling for an interview. The earlier you know this information the better because then you won’t run the risk of missing a tryout or recruitment event.

#2: Build Your Brand

For schools that choose eSports team members by just holding tryouts for current students, all you need to do is show up and show off your skills. However, if you’re interested in a school that has a more involved recruitment process (and these are often the ones that offer bigger scholarships),

you’ll likely need to do some more work to stand out and get offered an opportunity to try out for the team.

Once there is initial interest in a player, the coach will learn more about them by checking out their online presence, such as their Twitch feed and Discord conversations.

While every school has different qualifications, in general schools will evaluate you on the following factors:

  • Games you play
  • Hours you play per week
  • Battle.net ID
  • Gamer tag
  • Discord tag
  • Twitch channel
  • Highlight video

Make sure your channels and info are as strong as possible, particularly in the games the school is recruiting for.

#3: Contact Coaches and Current Players

Because eSports is such a new sport on most college campuses, many teams are only a year or two old and may not have much information available online. If you’re struggling to figure out if a school is offering eSports scholarships, which games they’re recruiting for, how to show you’re interested, etc.,

one of the best ways is simply to contact the eSports coach directly.

Not only will this get you the information you’re looking for, it also shows you’re serious enough about the school to contact someone and get more information about it. Plus, establishing a relationship with the eSports coach early on can only help you when it comes time to add new members to the team.

Similarly, many schools post bios of their eSports players, and you can contact them to get more information about the team, what their likes and dislikes of it are, etc. This can help you better decide if a particular eSports program is the right fit for you.

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Summary: Video Game Scholarships


eSports (organized, competitive video gaming) is the fastest growing sport in the country, and colleges have begun to respond to that demand by offering varsity eSports teams. In order to recruit top players, many of these schools have also begun offering gaming scholarships to players who join their teams.

These scholarships can range from a couple hundred dollars a year to full tuition

(though the latter is quite rare and very competitive). If you’re interested in getting an eSports scholarship yourself, you should research how eSports players are recruited at schools you’re interested in, work on building your eSports brand, and reach out to coaches and current players at schools you may want to play for.

What’s Next?


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Learn about the 7 principles used in design across many different fields (including game design!) here

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