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A Guide to Securing an Esports Scholarship

March 7, 2024

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In today’s academic landscape, securing a college scholarship can be pivotal for students aspiring to pursue higher education. While traditional sports scholarships have long been a pathway to college funding, the rise of Esports has opened new doors for students seeking financial assistance. Today, with over 150 colleges and universities boasting established Esports programs and competitive scholarships, the opportunities for aspiring gamers have never been more abundant.

In our “Guide to Securing an Esports Scholarship,” we share actionable steps you can take today, to unlock college and scholarship opportunities for your students. If you’re interested in harnessing the academic and collegiate benefits of esports early on, now is the best time to invest in a comprehensive Esports program at your school or district. 

Which Colleges Offer Esports Scholarships?

In 2015, pioneering institutions like Robert Morris University and the University of Pikeville blazed the trail by offering Esports scholarships. Subsequently, in 2017, Harrisburg University made history by introducing the first full-ride scholarship for Esports players. 

Today, with over 150 higher-education institutions affiliated with the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), numerous schools provide competitive scholarships. Some notable examples include:

  • Arcadia University - Students can get varying scholarship amounts for playing games like Rainbow Six, Overwatch, League of Legends, and Super Smash Bros. 
  • University of California Irvine - This scholarship program offers between $1,000 to $6,000 to students who play Super Smash Bros., Overwatch, and League of Legends. 
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology - HU offers a full-ride scholarship for 22 eligible applicants annually
  • Concordia University - This school offers 10 scholarships of $2,000 each for qualifying students. 
  • University of Texas at Dallas - UT has an Esports league for League of Legends, Overwatch, and Super Smash Bros. Scholarship amounts range from $1,000 to $6,000 per student.  

Overall, Esports scholarships typically range from $500 to $10,000, with the average award hovering around $2,000 for varsity and junior varsity team members. While full-ride scholarships, such as those offered by Harrisburg University, are available, they are often rare and fiercely competitive.

What are the Requirements for Esports Scholarship Applications?

While specific requirements vary by institution, some general guidelines include: 

  • High GPA Scores—To support Academic Esports, which offer numerous transferable benefits, students must prove that video games are not detrimental to their studies. While a student doesn’t necessarily need a 4.0 GPA, the higher it is, the better. 
  • Streaming Content - Schools want to see how students play, especially if they’re part of an Esports high school program. Creating a Twitch stream or using a similar platform to showcase gameplay highlights allows recruiters to look at their past streams, evaluate strengths and weaknesses, and assess their growth as competitors.  
  • Rankings and Wins - Academic institutions prioritize top-tier competitors with notable achievements in competitive Esports. If a student has a high ranking in a particular game, they’re much more likely to get a scholarship. Additionally, if your school's Esports league wins a local or state championship, that’s an asset. 
  • Highlight Reel—Most Esports recruiters don’t have time to spend several hours looking over Twitch streams. Creating a highlight reel showcasing standout performances can help recruiters get an idea of the student’s abilities. This reel should also include contact information and other details about the student. 

Additional skills and competencies that will make your Esports scholarship application stand out include:

  • Demonstrated Leadership and Teamwork Skills: Emphasize experiences where the student has demonstrated leadership or teamwork within their gaming community or Esports team. Highlighting instances where they've contributed positively to team dynamics can showcase their ability to collaborate effectively.
  • Community Involvement: Showcase involvement in Esports-related communities, forums, or events outside of school. This could include volunteering at gaming conventions, participating in online communities, or organizing local gaming tournaments. Demonstrating a passion for Esports beyond just playing can make the applicant stand out.
  • Academic and Career Goals: Connect the student's interest in Esports to their academic and career aspirations. How do they plan to leverage their Esports experience to pursue future opportunities in gaming, technology, or related fields? Demonstrating a clear vision for their future can strengthen their application and showcase their commitment to long-term growth.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Encourage students to seek letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, or mentors who can attest to their character, work ethic, and dedication to both academics and Esports. These letters can provide valuable insights into the student's abilities, goals, and potential for success in a collegiate Esports program.

Which Games Are Most Sought After for Esports Scholarships?

Most NACE colleges focus on Overwatch, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros, and Rocket League. So, if you’re developing an Esports program for your middle school or high school, it’s best to have students compete in game titles that are well-recognized at the collegiate level. 

That said, some colleges do focus on other games like Starcraft, Rainbow Six, or Hearthstone. While these games may not enjoy the same level of mainstream recognition as Overwatch or League of Legends, they still offer viable pathways to scholarships for dedicated players. Basically, any game that has competitive Esports tournaments or championships likely has a collegiate program. However, if only a handful of universities have a league for a specific game, that will limit a student’s opportunities for scholarship programs. 

Aspiring Esports athletes should explore the offerings of different colleges and consider their individual strengths and interests when pursuing scholarship opportunities.

Building a High School Esports Program With USAEL

Esports scholarships are growing and can be a fantastic pathway for students to embrace higher education. Plus, video games can help teach important academic skills like math, reflexes, and teamwork. 

So, creating an Esports program at your school is the best way to set up your students for success in both their academic and professional careers. Fortunately, the US Academic Esports League can help you develop a curriculum from scratch. Plus, many Esports championships offer prizes for the top teams, which can help with fundraising efforts for your school.

Contact USAEL to start an esports program at your school! 


Peter Polygalov

Peter oversees the creation and integration of the marketing department’s content, assets, ads, campaigns, and outreach. He has been with Mastery Coding from the very start and is here to use his marketing skills to make sure your school gets the positive attention and support it deserves.

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