What students need to know about 2021’s college esports scholarships

By Nick Johnson


Apr 16, 2021

Reading time: 4 min

Esports scholarships are on the rise, with colleges and universities around the world starting to offer students money to come play for their teams, and the proof is in the numbers.

Confetti blanketed the arena as it erupted in cheers as the University of California defeated Maryvale, winning the 2018 National Championships not thanks to a buzzer-beater three-point shot or a hail mary play on fourth-and-one but off the back of a pentakill.

Esports is growing around the world and colleges are starting to take notice, offering students esports scholarships as they try to attract the sports’ best and brightest to come play on their teams. It’s a new phenomenom, but it’s also the biggest thing to hit college sports in 100 years. This year alone, the Overwatch Collegiate Championship series had over 600 registered teams vying for a title.

Esports scholarships: Which schools, how much, and how to apply

College esports has traditionally been the home of outside clubs. TESPA, for example, is one of the world’s largest collegiate esports clubs. After its inception at the University of Austin in 2012, the club has helped award over $3.5 million in scholarships, grown to more than 120,000 members and alumni, and even inked its own sponsorship deals with Activision Blizzard and Coke.

The National Association of Collegiate Esports is another, offering its services to a smaller pool of 5,000 of college esports athletes as it tries to bring sport’s traditional support structure to esports.

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But in 2021, more and more colleges are hopping on the esports train. Football powerhouse Miami University jumped into the esports scene with both feet in 2017 when it added esports to its athletics department. University of California Irvine and UC Berkeley have joined the charge as well. UCI’s League of Legends squad won Riot Game’s College National Championships in 2018, kickstarting a program that now offers students a high-tech esports arena on campus.

Players who receive esports scholarships from UCI also get to brag that a famous streamer even helped pay their tuition; Twitch personality Imane “Pokimane” Anys started the Pokimane Scholarship at the school in early 2020 with a $50,000 endowment.

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Is getting an esports scholarship hard?

But how hard is it to nab one of these exclusive scholarships? It’s pretty tough, and it’s only going to get tougher.

These aren’t professional teams, and colleges want more than prowess behind a keyboard from students before they hand out the prized esports scholarships. Take UCI for example, whose requirements to even apply for its esports program are in line with the majority of other US universities offering esports scholarships.

  • League of Legends
    • A rank of high-Diamond, Challenger
    • Interviews with coaches and current players
    • A required tryout

Students will need to check those boxes in addition to the added requirements of getting into UCI, which include ranking in the top 9% of a student’s high-school class. As for test scores, nearly 75% of all UCI students scored a 1440 or better on their SATs. In other words, colleges want players who won’t run it down mid in their studies or on the Rift.

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Esports scholarships spreading to universities around the world

Even with the steep requirements, players shouldn’t expect a full ride from their esports scholarship. A recent study by the Associated Press found that the average esports scholarship only totals around $2,000 at the country’s leading esports universities.

$2,000 isn’t nothing, especially at private colleges. But with the esports and video game industries expected to reach a make a staggering $125 billion in revenue by 2023, that number will only grow. 

How do you apply for an esports scholarship?

Students entering colleges will be pleased to know that the process isn’t all that different from applying for any other scholarship. Most require a player to be accepted to the university before awarding any scholarship money and reccomend a student focus on their studies before worrying about the esports potential.

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What kinds of universities offer esports scholarships?

All kinds of colleges offer esports scholarships, ranging from massive public institutions to smaller regional schools. Here are some of the colleges that currently offer esports scholarships to incoming students:

  • University of California – Irvine
  • Arcadia University
  • Robert Morris University
  • Valparaiso University
  • Ohio State University
  • Bellevue University

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  • Full Sail University
  • Midland University
  • Indiana Tech
  • Marquette University
  • University of Texas at Dallas
  • Hawaii Pacific University
  • UCS, University of Southern California
  • University of California, Berkely

Esports scholarships are becoming more common around the world as colleges start to appreciate their ability to foster teamwork, cooperation, and everything else physical sports can, making now a great time to go, or go back to, college.


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