Esports is a burgeoning industry. Colleges and universities around the world are expanding programs that center around gaming and virtual reality programs. Because of this, the amount of scholarships available to gamers has exploded in the last few years.

What Are Esports?

Some people are incredulous that students can attend a top college with a scholarship simply for being good at video games. It's become a lucrative field in and out of the college arena.

For those who aren’t quite familiar with the term, esports are games that are played online in groups or individually. Players can make significant amounts of money when they join teams and play in tournaments around the world.

It’s actually been growing since its inception nearly two decades ago. It is a fairly new addition to college programs.

Searching for Gaming Scholarships

There are many scholarships available for future players and gaming designers. However, these types of scholarships also tend to be unique in their application process. Read all of the requirements before applying. Be specific when searching for gaming scholarships. Ask questions such as:

  • Which colleges offer esports scholarships?

  • Which companies are searching for future designers or employees and also provide college funding?

  • What types of games are you the best at, and where do you shine in the competitive field of gaming?

Don’t be afraid to boast about your accomplishments, high scores or awards. If you have played on a team, then you should definitely try to get letters of recommendation from coaches or organizers of competitions.

Colleges That Offer Esports

There are nearly 100 schools that are listed on the National Association of Collegiate Esports. A handful of them offer full-ride scholarships, and many offer partial scholarships for gamers who show virtual and academic prowess.

  • University of Utah

    This is one of the larger sports schools that offers scholarships for students who excel at playing video games. Its varsity esports team is a regular contender in the online League of Legends competition, which includes top gaming teams from around the world.

    * University of California-Irvine – This Division 1 school was the first public university to step up and create an official esports program in 2016. That was the same year the college opened its esports arena and began offering scholarships to League of Legends players.



    Robert Morris University – This was the first university in the U.S. to offer video gaming scholarships to students. It’s a hefty sum. Gaming students at Robert Morris can earn up to nearly $20,000 each year in a variety of gaming scholarships.

    Miami University of Ohio – This first top-tier varsity esports program has a first-rate team.

    * Boise State University, Idaho – This Division 1 school is part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports and regularly competes. It has three varsity programs: empowering, equipping and challenging.



    College of St. Joseph, Vermont – This college recently opened a state-of-the-art arena and is looking to fill it up with competitive players. They are openly recruiting for Fortnite, Rocket League, Hearthstone and League of Legends players.

    Bellevue University, Nebraska – This is one of the more recent esports programs to enter the fray. They offer scholarships to varsity players to expand their education.

Top Gaming Scholarships

There are a bevy of gaming scholarships out there in a wide range of monetary values, from $500 to more than $10,000. It all depends on the talent and goals of the gamer. After gaining entrance to an esports college, a gaming scholarship can significantly curb your tuition debt.

Many gaming scholarships are tailored to specific aspects of the video gaming industry and students who are pursuing jobs in those areas.

Twitch and Alienware Scholarships

The Twitch Scholarship grants five students $10,000, each of whom are highly competitive in their online game play. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA at a minimum and be high ranking in their game of choice and relatively active. They must also make a one-minute video and write an 800-word essay on why they are the best candidate for the scholarship.

Adobe Design Achievement Awards

For those who want to do more than play, this $5,000 scholarship is given to students who are already enrolled in an accredited higher learning institution and who want to compete for web design, game art, animation, photography, illustration, motion graphics or communication. Winners also receive entry to the Adobe Max event in Los Angeles, an Adobe Creative Cloud membership and a year-long mentorship with a professional in the gaming industry.

DigiPen Graduate Scholarships

The DigiPen Institute of Technology offers several scholarships every year for up to $5,000. The applicants need to be incoming graduate students who intend to use their gaming skills while they are enrolled in this school’s stellar Master of Science in Computer Science or MFA in Digital Arts programs with a concentration in gaming design. To apply, you need to show a high academic record and strong artistic talents in a well-crafted portfolio.

Aspiring Animation Professional Scholarship Program

Do you love design and all the action packed into a program that makes it shine? This annual scholarship offers $1,000 to high school seniors who are pursuing a degree in the field of animation. These include:

  • Game animation
  • Game art
  • Game development
  • Game management
  • Game production
  • Game design

The application form needs to be completed along with a brief essay that details all of the specific skills that you most want to develop during your college years.

Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Foundation

There are three scholarships valued at $2,500 for undergraduate students who are pursing a career in the vast video game industry. Each of the three scholarships centers around a different aspect of the industry and requires the applicant to be a full-time undergraduate who is starting the second year or to be in graduate school at an accredited college with a minimum 3.3 GPA. Non-U.S citizens may also apply.

  • WomeIn – Any female-identifying student who is looking to enter interactive entertainment can apply. This includes animation, art, engineering, game direction, game design, law, marketing, business administration, sound design and programming.

  • Randy Pausch – If you are pursuing a career in game development, then this is for you. They are looking for those who are into art, animation, programming, engineering, game direction, game design, music composition and sound design.

  • Mark Beaumont – Applicants must be pursuing a career in the business aspect of the video gaming industry. This includes law, management, human resources and marketing.

ESA Foundation Scholarship Program

The ESA Foundation awards $3,000 to up to 30 female and minority students who are interested in pursuing computer and video game arts as a career. The scholarships are broken down into two categories: 15 to high school students who have already been accepted to a video game program and 15 to undergrads enrolled in a gaming program.

Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship

Worth $5,000, this scholarship is intended to benefit minority and economically disadvantaged students who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in specific subjects. These include:

  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Fine art
  • Interactive design
  • Photography

To apply, students need to be U.S. citizens or have a green card. A minimum 2.0 GPA is required, and the student must prove any financial hardships.

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About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.