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How can I get an eSports scholarship?
The traditional collegiate model of awarding scholarships based on only academic achievement or traditional athletics over the past five years has received a major facelift, as more and more colleges and universities are now offering eSports scholarships for gamers. Parents around the world can now universally take a collected sigh of relief because those thousands of hours of video games their kids have played may actually pay off in a huge way.
The big question that many aspiring competitive gamers want to know is how to get an eSports scholarship. To get an eSports scholarship you will need to take a serious look at the following steps to increase your chances of getting your school paid for:
- Be professional
- Train like you have something to prove
- Create hours and hours of VODs
- Compete often in live tournaments
- Research eSports collegiate programs
- Research the actual college degree you want (commonly forgotten)
- Be flexible on your list of schools
- Confirm the school’s admission requirements
- Guage your competition
- Find out how long the scholarship will get funded
- Understand scholarship performance requirements
- Understand what the scholarship actually provides
- Ask about the school’s facilities, coaches, and mentorship process
- Schedule a visit to the school
- Have a long-term plan
#1: Be professional
The eSports industry has provided a ton of once amateur gamers the opportunity to elevate their careers to the professional ranks, and in many cases make a great full-time living off playing the likes of Dota 2, LoL, and CS:GO. However, the prospect of eSports stardom has also given many amateur gamers a false sense of hope in reaching the professional ranks. This is due to many gamers not fully embracing that eSports are first and foremost a business. Schools are beginning to make substantial investments in building state of the art eSports facilities on campus, and probably would not make this investment unless they were planning on receiving a healthy return on investment.
Let’s look at the University of California – Irvine. In 2016 they finished construction on a 3,500 square-foot eSports arena costing $250,000. They also are providing scholarships worth up to $6,000 for varsity team members, and $1,000 for junior-varsity members. Because of this level of investment in the players, colleges and universities are looking for candidates that take their gaming career seriously and can exude a sense of professionalism, in addition to having elite gaming performance. Professionalism can include making sure that you provide the following information during the initial application submission:
- Fully complete the online application (upon the first submission).
- Include your gamer-tag and/or battle-tags.
- Include access to your player ranking profiles.
- Add any of your profiles on streaming services such as Twitch & YouTube.
- Respond in a timely manner to any follow-up requests.
- Make sure you meet the school’s general entrance requirements.
#2: Train like you have something to prove
The truth is, there are many more qualified and talented gamers than there are scholarships available. In time, as more schools adopt eSports as a varsity sport, there will undoubtedly be more scholarship opportunities. But for now, the competition for scholarships is extremely high. So how can you set yourself apart from the crowd? The answer is to dedicate yourself to developing your craft and become increasingly regimen about training and practice. Unlike, football, basketball, or any other organized sport, people around the world are competing in eSports related competition 24/7 with the sole purpose of becoming the best. The truth is, you are not the only person wanting to get your school paid for by playing competitive video games, so you will need to make a big commitment to do more than your competition is willing to do.
Keep in mind that eSports is a sport, and if you want to be the best you will need to treat competitive gaming as you would any other sport. Training can include the following:
- Setting aside multiple hours a day for dedicated practice sessions.
- Watching replays on your performance and developing in-game strategies.
- Making sure you receive adequate physical training and proper nutrition.
- Consistently competing against higher-ranked competition.
#3: Create hours and hours of VODs
VODs are commonly known as Videos on Demand, which allow gamers to record their live streaming gameplay. In terms of getting an eSports scholarship, VODs are a fantastic way to showcase to schools your in-game persona and how you interact with teammates and competition. Ultimately, schools also want to know the type of person they are getting when they bring you on board to represent the college or university in eSports competitions.
Online competitive gaming is notorious for having some “interesting” in-game personalities, so schools are beginning to focus heavily on bringing in players who have good character, particularly during competitions. Perhaps even more importantly, VODs provide your highlight tape of some of your best moves and victories. Your VODs can even be a testimonial of the lessons you have learned in defeat, and how you applied those lessons to not to make the same mistake again.
#4: Compete frequently in live tournaments
Many amateur gamers believe that because they play a lot of video games against friends or online that they are ready to compete in real tournaments. The pressure and environmental factors that come from competing in real-life tournaments is something that can’t be replicated playing at home. In many cases, to even get a eSports scholarship you will need to compete against, or with, other prospective scholarship hopefuls in a room. You don’t want your first encounter with live tournament play to be on the day of your tryout.
One key to success to get an eSports scholarship is to be prepared to walk into a tryout and be totally comfortable with your surroundings. If you rarely ever compete in a live tournament, chances are you may be distracted or nervous at your tryout, which can ultimately impact your play. Whenever possible, try to practice in the conditions in which you will need to compete. By doing this you will likely be much more comfortable when it comes times to go out a get an eSports scholarship, regardless of the conditions in which you are asked to compete.
#5: Research eSports collegiate programs
The next step is to investigate colleges and universities that currently offer varsity eSports programs. Two great online resources to search collegiate eSports programs is the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and Tespa. It is important to note, that not all schools that have competitive eSports teams necessarily provide eSports scholarships. Make sure to thoroughly investigate a prospective school’s website to understand exactly if the program operates as a sport within the athletics department or club team. In the event the website is lacking information on their eSports program, you can even call the admissions or athletic department directly to get more information.
What we have seen is that schools that have a mature eSports program, regardless of scholarship availability, typically have a dedicated eSports website and an online recruitment form. Below are good examples of schools that provide an eSports team website and an online recruitment form:
|College/University||eSports Team Website||eSports Recruitment|
|University of California – Irvine||Click Here||Click Here|
|Robert Morris University||Click Here||Click Here|
|Ashland University||Click Here||Click Here|
|Harrisburg University||Click Here||Click Here|
If you need to call the school to get pretty basic information on the program itself, chances are the school may not be the best option for pursuing an eSports scholarship. Regardless, if you do have an interest in a specific program, make a simple phone call to the school to confirm the eSports program details before applying to the school.
#6: Research the actual degree program you want (commonly forgotten)
This tip may seem like the white elephant of all the tips, but this is the most underlooked aspect of getting an eSports scholarship. When you get an eSports scholarship you should be excited as you achieved a major accomplishment in your competitive gaming career! However, don’t fall so in love with the idea of receiving a scholarship that you forget about the actual degree program you are going after and how it will benefit you after college.
Take the time to research the degree offering of each school and make sure the program aligns with your potential career aspirations. Tuition at most colleges and universities is expensive so try to maximize the value of the eSports scholarship by picking a major that you could see yourself working in the event you don’t become a full-time professional gamer.
#7: Be flexible on your list of schools
There are over 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States, however, when it comes to eSports scholarships, you will currently find list the of schools offering scholarships is much smaller. If you are in pursuit of an eSports scholarship, try to stay open to attending schools that you may not have considered in the past. In addition, you may find that some schools classify eSports as a club activity, instead of a varsity sport.
However, in cases like Maryville University, some schools may offer participation awards as a form of compensation for players. So while you may not receive a “scholarship” some schools still provide alternative ways of providing a form of compensation.
#8: Confirm the school’s admission requirements
This should come as no surprise, but even though your goal is an eSports scholarship, you will still need to meet admission requirements to get into the school. Make sure to research all entry requirements including any pre-admission test scores that will need to be included with your application. In addition, we have seen that many schools require that you MUST be either a current or incoming student before you can apply for their eSports scholarship.
#9: Guage your competition
The exploding popularity of eSports and the limited availability of eSports scholarships creates the perfect storm of a large number of qualified candidates all competing against each other. One way to gauge your chances of getting an eSports scholarship is to find out approximately how many candidates are applying for the scholarship. If you are competing against a pool of 100 other student applications, versus a pool of 10,000, then your odds getting the scholarship are mathematically superior.
Although your gameplay will largely be the biggest deciding factor, keep in mind that the number of applicants can also have a substantial impact on your chances. We recommend reaching out to your prospective school’s eSports program and asking to receive some info on the number of applicants for the scholarship.
#10: Find out how long the scholarship will get funded
This is a very important factor that should be considered when applying for an eSports scholarship. You should check with the school’s administration to determine how long the eSports scholarship program will receive guaranteed funding. This is not specifically in reference to how long your scholarship is good for, but the overall eSports scholarship program. For example, you may receive a partial tuition scholarship valued at $4,000 per school year, however, the scholarship program itself may only receive guaranteed funding for the next two years. You should make sure that when you accept the scholarship, you are aware that there is a possibility that the eSports scholarship program may not be around for your entire collegiate career.
#11: Understand scholarship performance requirements
Before accepting an eSports scholarship from a school, make sure you fully understand both the gaming and academic performance requirements. Similar to traditional sports, students will need to maintain an appropriate GPA and attend practices regularly to stay eligible for competition and keep their scholarship. However, often one of the lesser known requirements for maintaining an eSports scholarship is the in-game performance requirements for the scholarship.
For example, you should find out if you can lose your scholarship due to in-game performance or how to handle scholarship disputes. In addition, determine how often you have to re-qualify for the scholarship.
#12: Understand what the scholarship actually provides
In general, the three most common types of athletic scholarships are full-ride, full-tuition, and partial. The various scholarship types are explained below:
- Full-ride scholarship: provides the full cost of tuition, books, housing, and other related expenses. Full-ride scholarships typically are only offered to major division one sports such as football, basketball, and baseball.
- Full-tuition scholarship: typically covers the cost of tuition only. However, some schools like Harrisburg University offer full-tuition eSports scholarships with a housing stipend!
- Partial scholarship: by far the most common in collegiate sports and are typically a fixed amount or a percentage of the cost of tuition. For example, a partial scholarship may be a fixed amount of up to $4,000, such as the eSports scholarships offered by Ashland University. In addition, partial scholarships can cover a percentage of tuition, typically ranging anywhere from 15% up to 75%.
Most of the current eSports scholarships available today are partial scholarships and cover a fixed amount. It is important to note that if a school is offering a percentage based partial scholarship, to make sure you are fully aware of the school’s total tuition cost, so you can accurately gauge how much of the tuition cost you will be responsible for paying.
#13: Ask about the school’s facilities, coaches, and the mentorship process
In addition to the financial benefits of an eSports scholarship, the school’s eSports facilities, coaches, and mentorship process for developing gamers can be equally as important. Having top-notch eSports facilities can add a ton of value to player development, as you will be able to train and compete with professional hardware. In addition, having an experienced eSports coaching staff to help mentor players and develop their skills will be critical in the future if you decide to go pro.
#14: Schedule a visit to the school
Before you official accept an eSports scholarship, we would recommend to take a visit to the school’s campus and get a feel for the eSports scene in person. You will want to do things like visiting the eSports facilities, meet with the coaching staff, talk to current players, etc. Make sure to speak to school administrators to get a sense of their plan for growing the eSports and competitive gaming culture at the school. This can include the school planning to build new eSports facilities, adding additional scholarships, or even engaging in more international tournaments. Ultimately, accepting a scholarship to a school is a big commitment on your part, so make sure you have a complete picture of the eSports culture at the school.
#15: Have a long-term plan
Finally, regardless of the eSports scholarship you accept, make sure you have a long-term plan, specifically, how you will leverage the scholarship to reach your goals. The goals may include turning into a pro gamer after college or simply using eSports to help pay for college and propel you into a non-gaming career. The truth is, not everyone will become a professional full-time gamer. The great news is that there are a ton of jobs within the eSports industry that isn’t competitive gaming. If you are looking to stay in the eSports industry after college you should check out our article on the 10 best tips to get a job in eSports.
You’re now ready to get an eSports scholarship
Pursuing an eSports scholarship is exciting and is just one way of reaching your competitive gaming aspirations. The eSports industry itself at this point is a very uncertain science in terms of organization. However, there is no doubting that it’s explosive growth is a high indicator that the industry is here to stay. We are seeing that the integration of eSports into the collegiate ranks is still mostly unchartered territory for most colleges and universities in the United States. This is evident by the anemic amounts of eSports information present on many school websites (even though many schools post that they have an eSports program and/or provide scholarships).
We recommend staying patient and not giving up hope if you don’t find an eSports scholarship immediately. We believe that many schools are somewhat hesitant to fully embrace eSports until other schools can successfully prove out the concept. For example, in some cases, we see eSports classified under the athletics program umbrella, whereas in other instances it’s classified as a club. Due to this state of limbo, we believe that as eSports becomes more mainstream, schools will be willing to provide more scholarship opportunities, and fully embrace the competitive gaming culture as a pillar of their formal athletics program.