Advice for Getting College Esports Scholarships

Jun 23, 2023

If you are an up-and-coming talented esports athlete in titles like Super Smash Bros, Valorant, Rocket League, or Overwatch, you may be eligible to earn thousands in scholarships to attend a 2- or 4-year university! With over 250+ Varsity esports programs in the U.S., the opportunities to get a valuable college degree and pursue your passion has never been better.

Sam Smith coaches the Valorant team at Kansas State and recently founded Smith Talent Acquisition (STA). He helps student-athletes and their families understand the opportunities and assist them in the process for obtaining scholarships and making a college decision. 

“When I went to Kansas State in 2015, there weren’t many real opportunities for scholarships,” Smith said. “There are hundreds of colleges now that are offering scholarships for passionate athletes, even if you aren’t the highest ranked player!”

Universities have a finite budget that determines the number and total value of scholarships that they can give. Do some research to learn about colleges you're interested in. Ask the colleges how many teams they field on scholarship, and if there is a variance between being on the varsity team vs the JV team.

If you are a rising high school junior or senior and are interested in playing esports in college, Smith recommends doing a few things:

  1. Start talking to college coaches - start talking and building relationships with coaches BEFORE you apply to a university. It can help you understand if you are qualified and a good fit to earn a scholarship before making a decision.
  2. Play on a high school team - If you are part of a school team that participates in major tournaments, you can build out a portfolio of achievements and get in front of coaches at live events.
  3. Explore STA - If you are unsure where to start, STA has many free tools such as their College Database which lists many programs across the US with current competing varsity rosters.

NASEF partnered with NACE (National Association for College Esports) and talked with several college coaches and esports program directors. Watch this web series for insights and advice direct from some of the top programs in the U.S.

Here's just one of several livestreams with college coaches.

When applying for scholarships, you will have to fill out a questionnaire from the school that has all your details such as your GPA, rank, test scores, etc. If the coach is interested, they will typically reach out directly and ask you to give them a call and talk more about your interest in their university and what you intend to study. From there, certain programs will invite you to participate in private tryouts where you will be scored by the head coach or assistant coaches on your performance. STA can help identify what a program expects from you in order to participate on a varsity team and what steps you need to make to either get recruited or become a walk-on.

While more esports scholarships are being offered, most are not full-ride. Be prepared to pay for the balance of your schooling with other funds. NASEF partners with Imagine Scholarships, providing free access their database of scholarships offered for a broad range of interests, skills, and backgrounds. Join NASEF for free, then login to the dashboard for details on how to access this tool.

Contributed by Sam Smith, founder of Smith Talent Acquisition. STA provides students and families with personalized services for in-game/out-of-game coaching, professional portfolio development, and networking to maximize esports scholarship offers.


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