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Esports Recruiting Guide

 

College Esports: Complete Guide to Scholarships & Recruiting

One of the fastest-growing sports in the world isn’t played on grass or ice—it’s played on a computer. Short for electronic sports, esports are team-based video game competitions watched live by online spectators on Twitch. Like traditional sports, players wear team jerseys, compete in spacious arenas and communicate with teammates and coaches as the game unfolds. By 2021, the professional esports industry is expected to generate $1.65 billion in revenue and capture a global fanbase of 557 million people.

And college esports aren’t far behind. In 2014, varsity esports began when Robert Morris University launched a scholarship-sponsored League of Legends team. In 2017, the University of Utah became the first Power Five school to launch a varsity esports program. And starting fall 2018, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology became the first school to offer 16 full-ride gaming scholarships for its entire varsity roster. Today, 96 colleges and universities are members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the only official governing body for varsity esports. And that list continues to grow.

NCSA is built on the belief that all sports—including esports—can help create the path to college and lifelong success. As the Official Recruiting Services Partner of NACE, NCSA works closely with college esports coaches and industry leaders to provide all the information you need to successfully navigate the esports recruiting process and find a college team that are right for you.

How colleges are using scholarships to field esports teams

US and Canadian colleges are currently fielding teams and giving esports scholarships and participation grants to gamers who play League of Legends and many other major esports titles. As programs partner with sponsors and win tournaments, they grow their funds for larger scholarships and cutting-edge arenas. Schools compete for prize money at tournaments around the year and use the winnings to award additional esports scholarships to current and future team members.

Varsity esports programs generally field teams of 14-16 players, which provides enough personnel for an “A Team” and a “B Team.” One difference unique to college esports—coaches can be current students and are sometimes included in the scholarship count.

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What games can you get esports scholarships for?

Varsity programs award esports scholarships to gamers who excel in a wide range of popular titles. Types of games include:

  • Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA): League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) 2, Heroes of the Storm, Smite
  • First person shooter: Overwatch, Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Paladins
  • Collectible card game: Hearthstone
  • Real-time strategy: StarCraft II
  • Sports games: Rocket League, FIFA, Madden
  • Fighting games: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat

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What colleges are offering esports scholarships?

The number of schools with varsity and club esports teams is growing by the day. Varsity programs award esports scholarships to academically eligible gamers who impress during open tryouts and win roster spots. At the club level, teams and individual students can earn scholarships by winning official collegiate tournaments. While gaming clubs offer no formalized recruiting process, veteran players and faculty advisors hold internal tryouts and practice sessions to determine the “A Team” roster. Currently, 96 NACE member schools offer varsity programs, while 279 colleges have Tespa chapters at the club level.

See the complete list of college esport teams.

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How much money can I get with an esports scholarship?

  • Partial scholarships cover a percentage of tuition costs but not room and board or other expenses.
  • Full-tuition scholarships cover the costs of tuition but not room and board or other expenses.
  • Full-ride scholarships cover all costs of associated with attending the school.

Esports scholarships are awarded on a school-by-school basis. The majority are partial and range from $500 to $8,000 per year. Several schools are beginning to offer full-tuition, and even full-ride scholarships. Many of these partial esports scholarships can be combined with merit and academic scholarships to help reduce the overall costs of tuition.

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How to get recruited to play college esports

Every recruiting journey is different. But understanding what college esports coaches are looking for will help you stand out. If you have good grades and a strong work ethic, you can put yourself in a good position to receive interest from college programs.

Coaches start by performing an initial evaluation of prospects who submit a recruiting form. In some cases, coaches also monitor local tournaments to find promising recruits. After reviewing your Twitch stream and video on demand, the coach will extend an invitation to campus to meet current team members and undergo a live tryout. Typically held during or shortly before the school year, tryouts allow the coach to evaluate you in person and test your abilities in a team environment. If you pass the test, the coach will offer you a spot on the team and a partial, full-tuition or full-ride scholarship.

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How do colleges find esports athletes?

In the early days of varsity college esports, programs relied on referrals and emails from prospective students to find gamers. As the industry has evolved, many varsity programs invite gamers to fill out recruiting forms with the following information:

  • Game(s) of interest
  • Hours played per week
  • Gamer tag
  • Discord tag
  • Twitch channel
  • Battle.net ID
  • Primary role
  • Secondary role
  • Highlight video

To learn more, the coach will vet recruits by watching their Twitch feed and listening to their in-game communication on a Discord chatroom. Recruits who make the cut are then invited to campus for a tryout.

You can kick off the esports recruiting process by contacting college coaches at any time. NCSA is the official Recruiting Services Partner of NACE and all NACE programs are using the NCSA Recruiting Network to search for esports athletes. You can create a free online profile to increase exposure across our network of college coaches.

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How to make an esports highlight video

Creating an esports highlight video is a great way to impress college coaches and land a tryout invitation. As coaches perform their initial evaluations, they typically turn to video on demand (VOD) on Twitch to vet recruits. To create a highlight video that makes a great first impression, pick your best game and start adding clips that are worthy of the play of the game.

Save content you stream with VOD. Make sure you enable VOD saving to hold onto past footage. On your Twitch dashboard, click the Settings tab and check the box marked “Store Past Broadcasts.” Use the Video Producer tab to pare down past broadcasts into short and sweet clips.

Wow college esports coaches right off the bat. Within the first minute of your video, include 4-5 of your best plays to showcase your abilities. Use clips that demonstrate your strategy and train of thought in a variety of situations. Make sure the clips provide context by including a few seconds of footage leading up to the highlight.

Less is more. Highlight videos should be between 1-2 minutes. Don’t delete unused footage! Interested coaches may follow up by asking for more video. As your skill level increases, make sure you update your video with new highlights.

Include your basic contact info in the video and description. Shoot a short introduction to your video that includes your gamer tag, rankings, primary role, high school GPA and graduation year. At the end of the video, list your email and phone number to make it easy for coaches to get in touch.

Publish your highlights. In addition to sending your video to college coaches, post it on Twitch, YouTube and your free NCSA recruiting profile in order to ensure maximum exposure.

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What to expect during a college esports tryout

In many respects, esports is very similar to football and other sports—coaches want to see you play. College esports coaches know gamers can “boost” their ranking by having a high-caliber player use their tag. That’s one reason why they evaluate players in person.

Coaches vet gamers by watching their VODs to see their train of thought and joining their Discord chatrooms to listen to their communication and take notes. Once the coaches identify a promising recruit, they will invite them to visit campus for a tryout. The visit allows coaches to see if you’re a good fit for their team, as well as a good fit for the school. Always make sure to follow up after the tryout and continue coach communication if you’re interested in joining the program.

At the tryout, the coach will have you slot into the varsity lineup for one or more scrimmages to test your performance and communication skills. The team environment is very different than solo play, and tryouts are a great opportunity to get your feet wet by competing with other players. Coaches measure gamers based on three main criteria:

  1. In-game communication - Make sure you consistently communicate with clear and accurate callouts during the game. Use correct vocabulary and specific locations. Always stay focused and resist the urge to clutter the channel with off-topic info. Coaches are looking for someone who understands how to use teammates as resources
  2. Teamplay - Carry out your role in team comp. Don’t abandon your duties to attempt the hero play. No solo-play decision making. Support your teammates and stay in position at all times.
  3. Attitude - Be a leader. Coaches want someone who is a fountain of supportive comments and constructive advice. Demonstrate a sincere desire to grow—own up to your mistakes and actively work to correct them. Keep it positive. Don’t let emotions get the best of you.

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Academic requirements for college esports

Every recruiting journey is different. But understanding what college esports coaches are looking for will help you stand out. If you have good grades and a strong work ethic, you can put yourself in a good position to receive interest from college programs.

Since esports are not affiliated with the NCAA, academic eligibility tends to be more relaxed than with traditional sports. While scholarship requirements vary from school to school, most varsity programs require gamers to maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Since esports scholarships are often partial and combined with academic scholarships, good grades and test scores can help you get more assistance.

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