Complete Guide to Esports Scholarships
One of the fastest-growing sports in the world is played on a computer. Short for electronic sports, esports are team-based video game competitions watched in person or online by spectators on Twitch. Like traditional sports, players wear team jerseys, compete in arenas and communicate with teammates and coaches as the game unfolds. In 2019, the global esports industry is expected to hit $1.1 billion and capture a fanbase of 454 million.
NCSA is built on the belief that all sports—including esports—can help create the path to college and lifelong success. We are the Official Recruiting Services Partner of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). As the only official governing body for varsity esports, NACE currently has 151 member schools across the country. In this capacity, NCSA works closely with college esports coaches and industry leaders to provide all the information gamers need to successfully navigate the esports recruiting process and find the right college fit.
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
How to get recruited for esports
To find recruits for their esports teams, college coaches start by performing an initial evaluation of prospects who have submitted a recruiting form. In some cases, coaches also monitor major tournaments to find promising recruits. If a coach is impressed by your Twitch stream and video on demand, they will invite you to campus to meet current team members and undergo a live tryout. Tryouts are typically held during or shortly before the school year. They 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.
How much are esports scholarships?
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. Harrisburg University—which won ESPN’s inaugural Collegiate Esports Championship in May 2019—became the first college esports program to award full ride scholarships to its entire 16-player roster in 2018.
Colleges that offer esports scholarships
In general, colleges with varsity esports teams tend to have the most money to allocate toward esports scholarships. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) currently has 151 member schools with varsity esports programs. However, it all depends on the program and its funding.
How colleges use gaming scholarships to field esports teams
College esports coaches use gaming scholarships to persuade talented recruits to visit campus for a tryout. Competitive gamers are extremely passionate about their craft and will often travel from across the world for a chance at a scholarship and the opportunity to attend a good school. Like any other sport, the best scholarships are the toughest to get and are awarded to the best players. Since the vast majority of esports scholarships are partial, coaches typically divide their scholarship budget across their roster.
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 now 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 use 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.
How to make an esports highlight video
Creating an esports highlight video is a great way to impress college coaches and earn an esports scholarship. As coaches perform 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.
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 four or five 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 to ensure maximum exposure.
What to expect during a college esports tryout
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 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:
- In-game communication – Make sure you consistently communicate with clear and accurate callouts during the game. Use correct vocabulary and specific locations. Coaches are looking for someone who understands how to use teammates as resources.
- Teamplay – Carry out your role in team competition. Don’t shirk your duties to go for the hero play without telling your teammates. No solo-play decision making. Support your teammates and stay in position.
- Attitude – Be a leader. Coaches want someone who offers support and constructive advice from start to finish. Demonstrate a sincere desire to grow—own up to your mistakes and actively work to improve on them. Keep things positive, and don’t let emotions get the best of you.
Academic requirements for college esports
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.
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.
Gain access to NCSA’s robust network of college coaches
NCSA is an official recruiting partner of the National Association of Collegiate Esports. We have a growing database of varsity esports coaches. Create a free athletic profile today to join our network and find the right collegiate esports program.
“With NCSA, our coaches can access an extensive network of student-athletes to build their best teams.” – Michael Brooks, Director of the National Association of Collegiate Esports