The 10 Best Colleges for Gamers & ESports Scholarships

Esports, or electronic sports, is one of the newest and fastest-growing forms of competition today. The global esports market is valued over $1 billion this year and is expected to surpass $1.8 billion next year.

Though it refers to competition via online video games, its classification as a sport comes from its reliance on many aspects of traditional sports: teamwork, reflexes, strategy, and skilled execution. Gamers, like traditional athletes, also have the chance to go professional, earn sponsorships, and become rich. The International 10 Dota 2 Championship in 2019 had a total prize pool of $34 million, the most of any esports tournament ever.

Colleges have taken notice and now offer esports scholarships alongside athletic ones. The concept is relatively new, but there are already 175 U.S. colleges that offer varsity esports programs recognized by the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). The esports world is currently making strides to achieve player equality and gain widespread acceptance. Meanwhile, the first few classes of esports scholars are working towards their degrees and will have the opportunity to make their career in video games.

Today, we’ll outline the top 10 scholarship programs by amount and describe the benefits of each school. The ranking is based on the list created by Lineups, a sports ranking website. 

All listed scholarships are renewable for four years, meaning if you receive a scholarship for $10,000, for example, you will receive $10,000 per year of attendance for up to four years.

10. University of California at Irvine (Irvine, CA)

UC Irvine
Allyunion, UC Irvine view from Watson Bridge, CC BY-SA 4.0

Since 2016, UCI’s esports program has trained varsity teams in League of Legends and Overwatch. Varsity scholarships are up to $6,000 and junior varsity scholarships go up to $1,000. Teams benefit from the guidance of coaches, managers, analysts, an exercise physiologist, a team psychologist, and a player support coordinator.

Like most traditional college athletes, UCI esports team members must balance academics, practice, and anything else they may have going on. Often, scholarship winners go into computer science or computer game science, fields that complement esports.

The UCI Esports Arena was the first of its kind on any college campus. The 3,500 square foot facility houses 72 top-tier iBUYPOWER computers and Logitech gear, courtesy of their sponsors. The Console & Community Corner hosts campus club events and meetings, including virtual reality demos by the esports program.

Scholarships available: Up to $6,000 per student player

Represented Games for ESports Scholarships: League of Legends, Overwatch

9. Hawaii Pacific University (Honolulu, HI)

Hawaii Pacific University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The typical image of college in Hawaii is perfect weather, rich culture, and beautiful beaches. Now you can add competitive gaming to the list.

With scholarships ranging from $1,000-$6,000 per year, HPU was the first in the state to institute an esports program and arena. Located by the Aloha Tower Marketplace, the 3,000 square foot Esports Arena boasts impressive gaming rigs, VR stations, and indoor and outdoor viewing areas. 

The arena also offers League of Legends players the premium League Unlocked experience, which unlocks all champions, 100+ skins, and bonus rewards.

In 2019, HPU hosted its first annual esports summer training camp for youths ages 7-15. The month-long event included coaching, tournaments, coding workshops, and learning experiences with current esports professionals. This included a discussion between HPU alum and radio DJ Haz-Matt and his friend Jacob, a Twitch streamer.

Scholarships available: Up to $6,000 per student player

Represented Games for ESports Scholarships: League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO, Super Smash Brothers: Melee, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm

8. University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, TX)

University of Texas at Dallas
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

After a $100,000 donation by Daniel Shen ‘10, UTD renamed its esports facility the Sector 7 Energy Esports Gaming Arena, after a sector in Final Fantasy VII — an influential game in Shen’s gaming life.

This donation will boost the school’s burgeoning program to meet the growing competitiveness of the esports industry. UTD itself is a top public university, with a top 10 information technology program

Currently, UTD offers scholarships for League of Legends and Overwatch players. In its first year, the League team made the ESPN Top 25 College League of Legends Coaches Poll. The esports program is still very new, so it is actively looking for talented players to take their League and Overwatch rosters to the next level. 

Scholarships available: Up to $6,000 per student player

Represented Games for ESports Scholarships: Overwatch, League of Legends

7. Full Sail University (Winter Park, FL)

Full Sail University
Comb4ckszn, Full Sail University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Esports is Full Sail’s only athletic program, so they’re pretty serious about it.

The university’s academic programs focus primarily on audio, film, and media production, video game design, animation, music, and other studies related to media and entertainment. The school has also started offering augmented and virtual reality courses. Thus, esports scholars can learn the ins and outs of the games they compete in, as well as have the opportunity to create their own.

Full Sail’s “Fortress” is an 11,200 square foot esports arena with over 400 LED tiles, 10 million pixels, 500 seats, and two independent sound systems operated by state-of-the-art control rooms. It’s the largest collegiate esports arena in the country. 

Full Sail recently partnered with Magic Gaming to further accelerate the esports program and expand scholarship opportunities.

Notable alumni include Call of Duty developer Mohammad Alavi, Grammy-winning engineer Brad Blackwood, and The Path of Motus creator Michael Hicks.

Scholarships available: Up to $8,000 per student player

Represented Games for ESports Scholarships: Overwatch, Madden, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Fortnite, Dragonball Fighter Z, Rocket League, Super Smash Brothers, SMITE, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

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