Esports scholarships grow exponentially since last year, more added every year

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Becoming an esports pro is the ultimate dream for many gamers. Sadly, it’s often not lack of talent that prevents player from reaching those lofty heights, but rather lack of opportunity. With college, university and other higher education facilities being expensive as always, it’s a sad reality that many pros have to hold down a job while also studying, leaving little time for gaming – certainly not enough to join the pros.

In recent years however, things have begun to change. Esports scholarships started to emerge. These scholarships – usually partial, though sometimes full – help aspiring esports pros by taking some of the pressure off. Though initially these new programs were seen as a waste of time and money, they proved immensely popular, and before long, the phenomenon began to spread.

By now, they are available in countries all over the world. While the US has had them for years and new universities adopt them every year, the UK has recently established one as well, and even Malaysia founded its first-ever esports scholarship late last year. Long story short – what seemed like a distant dream just a few years ago, is now pretty common place.

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The university of Roehampton in London, UK has just launched its first esports scholarship. Though the program claims to be the first in the UK(it isn’t, the university of Staffordshire offered a partial scholarship before them) it is definitely the first London uni to offer one.

The new scheme will offer ten students that are enrolling in 2019 up to £1.500 per year. While that is far from a full scholarship, it can be a big financial relief for those ten chosen ones. The university also has a gaming society and plans to field an esports team next year – most likely partially consisting of these ten lucky ones.

Mark Ellul, the university’s registrar said: “This scholarship is about recognising talent in a field that has a growing popularity both around the world and among our students. The University of Roehampton already has a successful sports programme, underpinned by financial and coaching support for students who excel in their chosen field, and this new scholarship is a natural progression from that as we seek to develop our wider offering in eSports.”

Esports scholarships grow exponentially since last year, more added every year

Image Credit: Newzoo Esports

Another hurdle that gamers wanting an esports scholarship had to face was that of game selection. Especially for the first few years, the universities had very tight rules for which game(s) would qualify. For many US universities this meant that their esports scholarship was really more of a League of Legends scholarship for example. Newer scholarships have branched out quite a bit more. In fact, there are now even some that are available for Fortnite players. Ohio’s Ashland University is the first college in the US that offers a scholarship specifically for the US.

Since college gaming is becoming ‘a thing’ and many colleges have esports pro teams in various different games, the scopes of available scholarships have widened, just as the selection of games has. The fact that Fortnite was included here, and relatively quickly in scholarship terms (they often take months or years to be approved or funded), is testament to the game’s immense popularity.

Ashland’s head coach who used to coach StarCraft 2 said: “As part of the program, you’re going to have coaches and a staff dedicated to helping you succeed — not only in the game but also in your academics. Helping to make sure that you have a good social life, and that your physical fitness is on point. All of our athletes are going to have access to our fitness facilities and trainers. And Ashland is known for putting a lot of focus on the individual and having a lot of one-on-one sessions with professors, or small group sessions, to really make sure that we’re personally invested in the students’ success.”

Ashland’s scholarship goes up to $4000 and tryouts are open to new and enrolled students alike. Their scholarship program for esports in general also covers games like Counter-Strike, Overwatch and Rocket League. NACE, the National Association of Collegiate Esports has just released a statement regarding the growth of the college esports world – according to executive director Michael Brooks, the number of institutions offering esports scholarships has gone grown by 5x over the last year alone.

NACE has 81 member institutions – that’s more than 50 more than they had a year ago. While they are operating in America only, NACE is a great indicator of how the esports world is changing at the college level. With so many new educational institutes offering esports scholarships and support for aspiring pro players, disadvantages like financial instability will hopefully soon no longer be an issue when it comes to new players joining the pros. It’ll finally be all about the skill and the sweet sweet head-shots, like it’s supposed to be – unless you are playing Rocket League. Then something went terribly wrong.

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Melanie H. - "MelanieH" | Esports writer and gamer

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