15 colleges and universities that will pay you to play competitive video games

GettyRound two of the Overwatch finals at the Barclays Center


Playing video games might sound like the most unlikely way to pull a college scholarship, but an increasing number of students are doing just that: Scoring a college education because of their gaming skills.

E-sports (the term used for competitive gaming) while long a major mainstream sport in China and Korea, has recently become more popular across the US and Europe. To get a sense how just how many people are watching e-sports, one need look no further than the 2017 League of Legends championship, which had over 106.2 million viewers more than the 2019 Super Bowl..

Some estimate gaming will be a $US1.67 billion industry by 2021. And steady stream of universities are trying to tap into that market.

According to the National Association of Collegiate E-sports, over 3,000 college students currently compete among 130 different teams. Since NACE formed in 2016, it estimates that schools have dished out over $US15 million in scholarship aid to e-sports players.

And the field just keeps growing. It’s expected that there will be around 150 national college e-sports programs by 2020, which means even more opportunities to get a free ride from playing games.

So whether you’re an all night, Monster-chugging, video-game-veteran or just a casual player interested in how far your hobby could get you, here’s 15 of the best e-sports colleges that will pay you to play – ranked by Best Colleges.com


1. Maryville University was the first school to offer full scholarships for e-sports players.

Aiden TidwellMaryville player Aiden ‘Niles’ Tidwell competing in League of Legends.

Maryville University is located in St. Louis, Missouri, and has a total undergraduate enrollment of 3,182.

Their gaming program has brought in two national championships and the team now has 20 players.

Here’s the Maryville team moments after they won a national championship in 2017:

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch

Apply Here

Sources:Best Colleges.com,Maryville University


2. Robert Morris University was the first school to create an e-sports team.

GettyA Robert Morris student player competes in a League of Legends championship.

Founded in 1912 in downtown Chicago, Robert Morris is a small undergraduate college with an enrollment of just over 2,000 students.

The school was the first university to offer an e-sports scholarship – back in 2014. Since then, the team has expanded to include nearly 40 players.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Rocket League
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive
  • Overwatch
  • Heroes of the Storm
  • Hearthstone

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com, Robert Morris University


3. Miami University won the 2017 Overwatch national championship.

Chris Light/WikimediaMiami University’s campus.

Miami University is actually located in Oxford, Ohio, and has just over 19,000 students. The university ranked third in the US for “Strong Commitment to Undergraduate Teaching.”

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Hearthstone
  • Overwatch

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Miami University


4. University of California-Irvine offers $US6,000 scholarships to players and has its own e-sports arena.

GettyUniversity of California Irvine wins League of Legends Championship

The University of California-Irvine has over 90 areas of study. The school has an undergraduate population of 29,307 and sits only a few miles away from the Pacific Ocean.

Here’s a walk through the team’s e-sports stadium:

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,University of California Irvine


5. The University of Utah was the first Division I school to announce an e-sports program.

Daderot/WikimediaThe University of Utah’s campus.

The University of Utah is situated on 1,535 acres in Salt Lake City, and has a total undergraduate enrollment of just under 25,000 students.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch
  • Hearthstone
  • Rocket League

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,University of Utah


6. Illinois Wesleyan University has its own e-sports arena.

The University of Illinois Wesleyan UniversityA Illinois Wesleyan University e-sports athlete competing.

Illinois Wesleyan University is located in Bloomington, Illinois, and has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,649. The university claims 97% of its student body find employment or start graduate school within six months of graduating.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Illinois Wesleyan University


7. Columbia College has issued over $US250,000 in e-sports scholarships since its program started.

Columbia CollegeColumbia College’s e-sports team.

Located in Columbia, Missouri, the university began life under the name Christian Female College. The name change came in 1980, when they shifted form a two-year womens’ college to a four-year coed college. The school has just over 1,200 students enrolled at its main campus, with an additional 11,000 spread across multiple “venue” campuses around the US.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Columbia College


8. Southwest Baptist University started offering varsity e-sports scholarships in 2016.

Southwest Baptist UniversitySouthwest Baptist University’s campus.

Southwest Baptist University is located in Bolivar, Missouri, and has 2,663 undergraduate students. The university calls itself, “distinctively Christian,” and offers 80 different areas of study.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Southwest Baptist University


9 Georgia Southern University says e-sports players “enjoy almost all the perks of being on an official athletic team.”

Richardelainechambers/WikimediaGeorgia Southern University’s campus.

Located in Statesboro, Georgia, the university has 26,400 students enrolled in 141 majors over three separate campuses. The university has a strong reputation for catering to veterans, and was ranked the number one college for vets by Military Times.

Games they compete in:

  • Rocket League
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive
  • SMITE
  • Overwatch
  • League of Legends
  • Call of Duty

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Georgia Southern University


10. Ashland University offers scholarships for e-sports players of up to $US4,000.

Shutterstock

Ashland University is a small Christian college located in Ashland, Ohio. The school has an undergraduate class size of 5,677.

Games they compete in:

  • Fortnite
  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch
  • Hearthstone
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive,
  • Starcraft 2
  • Rocket League

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com, Ashland University


11. Georgia State University offers competitive e-sports scholarships.

GettyGeorgia State University student competes in a Clash Royale game.

Georgia State University is located in Atlanta and has 25,790 undergraduate students. The university has more than 200 majors and over 400 student organisations to choose from, according to US News and World Report.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • SMITE
  • Clash Royale

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Georgia State University


12. Boise State is recruiting players, casters, strategists and “creatives who love the e-sports world.”

Boise StateBoise State’s arena.

Boise State is home to more than 25,000 students from every state and over 60 foreign countries. The university offers over 200 areas of study and 260 student organisation along with a strong internship program.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch
  • Hearthstone
  • Rocket League

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Boise State


13. Kansas Wesleyan University has been competing in e-sports since 2015.

Kansas Wesleyan UniversityPlayers battling at Kansas Weslyan University.

Kansas Wesleyan University is located in the small city of Salina, Kansas, and is home to fewer than 800 students. The university website says that 100% of its full time students receive some form of financial aid.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch
  • Rocket League
  • Hearthstone

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Kansas Wesleyan University


14. Bellevue University e-sports players compete in an arena call the “Bruin Bunker.”

Bellevue UniversityThe Bellevue University ‘Bruin Bunker.’

The university is located on 46 acres of land in Bellevue, Nebraska, and houses nearly 9,000 students.

Games they compete in:

  • League of Legends
  • Hearthstone
  • Overwatch

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.com,Bellevue University,


15. Stephens College has one of the country’s only all women’s e-sports teams.

HornColumbia/WikimediaStephens College’s campus.

Stephens College was founded in 1833 as an all women’s college in Columbia, Missouri. According to US News and World Report, the school has just 648 students.

Games they compete in:

  • Overwatch

Apply Here

Sources: Best Colleges.comStephens College, ESPN

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