Niche College Scholarship
Zina Kumok Image Written By: Zina Kumok | Edited By: Kevin Ladd | Updated: May 2, 2024

Esports Scholarships

Robert Morris University was the first accredited university to offer an esports scholarship in 2014. According to EsportScholar, there are now over 250 varsity esports programs in the US.

  • Nationwide, the amount of eSports scholarship money doubled; from $8 million to $16 million during the 2020/2021 academic year.
  • In fewer than ten years, the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) had grown to include over 170 member institutions.

If you’re not into video games, you may not be aware of the quickly rising popularity of esports. In fact, you might be very surprised to learn that nowadays, talented gamers - those who compete against others online in various video games - can earn hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in prize money. And what’s even crazier? They can even earn scholarships to help pay for college - for playing video games.

Can I really win an esports scholarship?

In a word, "Yes". Esports have grown in popularity to such a degree that an increasing number of schools have esports teams. That's right, actual varsity teams, with students competing on teams playing video games against other schools.

Everyone knows that you can get a college scholarship for athletics, whether you're a star quarterback or the leading scorer on your basketball team. But now, you can also get scholarships for "virtual sports" or esports.

Competing against other schools may result in prize money, so schools want to recruit the best players possible. That’s where esports scholarships come in. Robert Morris University was the first college or university to offer esports scholarships in 2014 and since then, the number of esports teams and scholarships has grown rapidly.

Continue reading the article below the scholarship list.

25 Esports Scholarships with Approaching Deadlines

Esports scholarships are given to students who decide to join a school’s esports team. Generally speaking, it will be high school seniors who happen to excel at a video game for which these schools have a varsity team. Those students should reach out to the school's esports coach to inquire about a scholarship. If you are already enrolled in a college that has an esports team and think you have what it takes, you may also want to talk to the coach at your school about trying out.

As is true with other sports, esports scholarships are given to students who are good at a particular game or number of games that qualify for their particular team.

Some of the most popular esports video games

Some schools and organizations may provide scholarships if you play other games, but the ones listed above are the most popular.

How should I go about applying for an esports scholarship?

Many esports scholarships are given directly from the school you apply to, but there are also some from other "outside" or third-party organizations. It is definitely worth looking into which colleges offer an esports scholarship and considering that factor along with everything else you need to think about before committing.

Applying for an esports scholarship is really not much different from applying for a typical athletic scholarship. There may be a tryout, for example, such as there might be for a football or basketball scholarship. For more established Division One sports like basketball or football, top high school talent is often recognized due to their performance in high school and those students will get recruited.

Likewise, though perhaps less common, coaches and their assistants or scouting/recruitment staff may attend large esports tournaments to discover and evaluate students in a similar manner. If you are a gamer, it would be a good idea to participate in as many of these types of events as possible in the hopes of being recruited.

Even if you’re one of the best esports players around, you should always fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the official form required if you want to receive federal financial aid including student loans, grants and more.

Even if you do win an esports scholarship, you may still need more funding to cover the rest of your expenses. Completing the FAFSA opens up the doors to so many other types of financial aid, including institutional scholarships and work-study. You should also be searching for other types of scholarships in order to reduce your student loans. You can always look through our Scholarship Directory to find scholarships by state, school year, major and numerous other categories.

Make sure to submit the FAFSA by the school’s or the state’s financial aid deadline, whichever comes sooner. If you miss those deadlines, then you may not receive the scholarships and grants that you would otherwise be entitled to.

How to find esports scholarships

If you’re a wiz at esports, you may be able to get a scholarship directly from the college you attend. Currently, there are dozens of schools that offer esports, including reputable universities like Georgia Tech, the University of Southern California and more.

For example, Miami University of Ohio provides scholarships to varsity esports students. You can go here to fill out their esports interest form for more information. They do not state exactly what kind of scholarships they offer or how much you can earn in financial aid.

Schools that have esports teams may recruit players - just like they do for basketball or football. You can also sell yourself by creating your own highlight reel and contacting esports coaches at the schools you’re interested in.

How good do I have to be to get an esports scholarship?

Playing video games is one thing, but being one of the best is another thing entirely. It’s like the difference between shooting hoops in your backyard a couple of times a week or being an All-State power forward.

There isn't a specific ranking cut-off to win an esport scholarship. It all depends on what the school or scholarship committee requires. At least that is how things stand for now. Who knows? If esports grows in popularity enough, there may just be ranking cut-offs down the road.

For example, the University of California Irvine (UCI) has the following standards to be on their esports teams:

If you have a school in mind, visit their esports department website to see what their scholarship standards are. If you don’t see anything listed, contact the department personally and ask them. They may look at students on a case-by-case basis instead of having a set baseline.

Can I get a scholarship for playing video games that aren’t part of esports?

There are only a handful of video games that have competitive leagues and matches. If you prefer other video games, like Zelda’s Tears of the Kingdom or Metroid Dread, then you likely won’t have the ability to earn an esports scholarship.

However, those who want to work in video games post-graduation can find other kinds of scholarships. There are many scholarships available for students who want to study video game design, production, animation and more.

For example, New York University’s Barlovento Scholarship for Women in Games offers a full ride for women who apply to the Game Design MFA program at NYU. There are several other video game scholarships available for NYU students.

Can I get a full ride scholarship for esports?

If you're one of the best in the country at a particular video game, you may be able to find generous scholarships. However, getting a full tuition scholarship can be harder than it would be for a traditional sports scholarship.

For example, Caroll University’s esports scholarships only range between $500 and $2,500. That amount can still be used to pay for a decent chunk of tuition and other expenses. To win this scholarship, you’ll need more than just being good at esports. Other factors include having a good GPA, evidence of community service and demonstrated financial need.

The best way to get a full tuition scholarship for esports is to also have stellar academics and demonstrated financial need. These two factors can help maximize your scholarship potential.

You should also look at other types of scholarships that you might be eligible for. For example, if you plan on majoring in engineering, look for engineering scholarships.

If I'm already a college student, can I get an esports scholarship?

Some schools will recruit high school students to attend their university and be on the esports team. Others will only recruit from within the existing student body.

If you’re already a student, you can go online to your school’s esports department and see if they offer tryouts. See what else you have to do to qualify for the team and ask if they have any scholarship opportunities.

Is there a GPA requirement for esports scholarships?

Some students think that because they're eligible for an esports scholarship, their grades don’t matter. But that’s usually not the case.

No matter what kind of video game talent you have, the scholarship organization or school usually has a minimum GPA requirement. The exact GPA necessary depends, but is often at least a 2.0.

However, having a higher GPA can also help you qualify for other types of scholarships. Even if you’re a talented esports player, you should still care about your grades if you want to win as many grants and scholarships as possible.

Can I use my esports winnings to pay for college?

If you compete in esports while you're in high school, you can save those winnings to help pay for college. Unless the prize money comes with rules or restrictions, you can use the funds to pay for tuition, room and board, fees, textbooks and more. You can even use them to cover living expenses, like groceries and transportation.

You may have to pay taxes on your winnings, including both state and federal taxes. Try to set aside between 20% and 30% of your winnings to cover any potential taxes.

Are there esports scholarships for minority students?

If you’re part of a minority group, you may be eligible for special schoalrships just for your race or ethnic background.

Even if you can’t find specific scholarships that you’re eligible for, coming from a diverse background can help you qualify for other minority scholarships. And having a strong background as an esports athlete can be something that helps you stand out on any scholarship application.

Can esports scholarships be renewed for multiple years?

Scholarships can be given for either one year only or for several years. There is often a limit to how many years you can receive a scholarship, usually four years in total if you’re an undergraduate student.

However, scholarships often have stipulations that you must meet - or they’ll be rescinded. Many scholarships have minimum GPA requirements. If your GPA falls below that figure, you might lose your scholarship.

In general, scholarships coming directly from a school are more likely to be given for multiple years compared to scholarships that come from a private organization. Make sure to factor that in when you’re calculating how much you’ll need to pay for your education.

Do all schools that have esports teams offer scholarships?

As the popularity of esports explodes across campuses nationwide, many popular and well-known schools have added esports teams to their roster.

However, just because a school has an esports team doesn’t mean that they offer scholarships for those players. For example, Ohio State University has esports teams for games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Valorant. But they do not offer scholarships to those players. Instead, students may be eligible to receive other perks like free Ohio State gear and paid entrance fees to team tournaments.

Just because a school does not currently offer an esports scholarship doesn’t mean that will always be the case. If you’re not planning to enroll next fall, keep checking in to see if the school changes its esports scholarship policy.

What are the best esports scholarships?

While esports scholarships are generally smaller than regular merit scholarships, there are still generous scholarships - especially from competitive schools.

For example, students who attend Hawaii Pacific University on an esports scholarship can receive between $1,000 and $6,000 a year for up to four years. If you’re lucky, that means you can get a total of $24,000 in scholarship funds.

To qualify, you will have to apply for regular admission and complete a separate esports scholarship application. You will have to provide standard information like your preferred game, tag and role.

You can also select games that you enjoy playing:

What are other ways I can pay for college with esports?

If you don’t already, you can start streaming your gameplay to earn more money on popular sites like Twitch or YouTube or more niche sites like Kick or LiveSpace.

If streaming while you’re gaming isn’t appealing, you can also upload videos to YouTube explaining a particular aspect of your favorite game or showing off a cool move. If you get enough subscribers and views, you’ll start receiving ad revenue.

These avenues are not guaranteed to make you money quickly. And some users or creators never see a huge profit - if any. Still, it’s an easy way to align your interests and find another way to make money.

If you do earn money from streaming, make sure to set aside a portion for taxes. And if you buy new gaming gear, you can offset those expenses against your earnings.

Plus, you can keep streaming while you’re in college (unless your esports scholarship doesn’t allow it) and after you graduate. This gives you another side hustle to have in your back pocket.