College Esports Recruiting: The Ultimate Guide to Finding College Esports Opportunities

College Esports Recruiting: The Ultimate Guide to Finding College Esports Opportunities

College esports recruiting has become a leading topic amongst organizations, players, and parents across the esports industry. This is due to an ongoing boom in colleges and universities establishing their new esports programs.

This guide will help you accelerate on your path to playing esports in college. Compete for a school with the location, community, and academic studies that is the best fit for you.

Let’s start with the basics.


College esports encompasses organized competition in video games, similar to sports like football or basketball. A majority of video games involved in college esports are team-based online multiplayer games. However, there are also competitions where players compete individually.

What Game Titles are Offered in College Esports?

As of Spring 2024, Stay Plugged In has found that there are at least 32 game titles of which college esports programs compete. Therefore, college esports recruiting exists for these titles as well. These games include the following:

Most Common: VALORANT, League of Legends, Fortnite, Rocket League, Overwatch 2, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six: Siege, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate™, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Counter Strike 2, DOTA 2

Common: Brawlhalla, EA SPORTS FC™, Madden NFL, NBA 2K, Apex Legends, Halo Infinite, Hearthstone,, Omega Strikers, Tekken, Street Fighter, Smite, Magic: the Gathering, Teamfight Tactics

Less Common: Pokémon Unite, iRacing, Forza, Wild Rift, World of Warcraft, Legends of Runeterra, Clash Royale

It is important to note that college programs vary in which titles and how many titles they offer.

What types of college esports programs are there?

College esports is still in its infancy. Therefore, many colleges are still contemplating how to integrate esports at their establishments. There are a couple of avenues schools can take when choosing to pursue esports:

Student-Run Esports Organization

Some schools have chosen to test the waters of what impact esports may have on campus. These colleges allow their students to organize a club program for esports.

Student-run esports organizations exhibit the following qualities:
  • Allows students more flexibility surrounding how they want to structure the program

  • Provides club leadership opportunities for its students that can be used on a resumé

  • Teams can compete against any esports program in nearly all college esports competitions

Varsity Esports Program

Other schools have elected to dive right in and lead the charge. Colleges that include esports under their official athletic department wing are considered to have a varsity esports program.

Varsity esports programs exhibit the following qualities:
  • Typically receive financial support from the institution to cover costs 

  • Cost coverage may include competition travel, coaching, recruiting, team broadcasts, and other day-to-day operations

  • Much more regulated due to funding and oversight coming from the institution

    • Must follow compliance guidelines set by both the school’s athletic department

    • Must follow regional and national standards in place for varsity sports

What organizations host college esports competitions?

Unlike the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of traditional college sports, there is no single body that oversees the legislation of all esports competition in college. Therefore, college esports competitions come in many different shapes and sizes.

Publisher Backed College Esports Organization

Publisher backed esports competitions consist of leagues, tournaments, and other competitions operated by the publisher of a game.

Examples of publisher backed college esports organizations: 
  • Riot Scholastic Association of America (RSAA) for Riot Games

    • College League of Legends (CLoL)

    • College VALORANT (CVAL)

  • College Carball for Epic Games

    • Collegiate Rocket League (CRL)

    • CCA ft. Fortnite

Independently Owned College Esports Organization

Independent owned college esports competitions are driven by organizations outside of game publishers. These organizations follow the community guidelines set forth by the publisher to run its competitions, but are unassociated.

Some independently owned college esports organizations are open to all college programs:
  • National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC)

  • ECAC Esports

Some are member-only organizations. Examples include:
  • National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE)

  • Regional Conferences such as the Big East, MAAC, and many others


The first step in the college esports recruiting process is understanding that it’s much more than finding a team. Every student’s story is different. Every need and preference varies for every player and parent involved in the process.

Stay Plugged In leads the way in helping high school esports student athletes along their college esports recruitment journey. By working closely with the collegiate program and the player, Stay Plugged In Recruiting Specialists are able to bring opportunities to players and colleges alike with the goal to find the best fit program for each player.

Here are our tips from many success stories that will increase your chances of getting recruited for esports in college.

1. Get your parents involved in your college esports recruiting process at the beginning.

Deciding on a college is arguably the most important decision a student will make during their high school career. Having extra help can make the process feel significantly less overwhelming.

Who better to help than the person who knows you best and has been through the process before? Additionally, your parents can help you navigate the financial decisions around how scholarships, grants and other financial needs can support your collegiate enrollment.

2. Build your personal brand in the esports scene.

“Connections are everything” is cliché for a reason. Your involvement in local and online gaming communities will not go unnoticed by recruiters when mentioned to them. A vast majority of college esports programs are looking to build strong communities, and the first place they typically start is by targeting students they recognize.

A great way to help with personal brand recognition outside of competition is by adding esports related community work to your resumé.

Community work in esports includes but is not limited to:

  • Organizing tournaments or broadcasts

  • Social media & marketing for a team, organization, or influencer

  • Graphic design or video editing for a team, organization, or influencer

As a player, you can compete at college esports recruiting events like those hosted by Stay Plugged In. Showcase your skills to scouts and have the opportunity to speak with recruiters before or after your matches.

Examples of recruiting events hosted by Stay Plugged In include:

  • In-person college esports recruiting events

    • Example: Ole Miss Campus Series LAN

  • Online college esports recruiting events

    • Example: Stay Plugged In Carry2College

3. Create a list of college esports programs to target, and contact recruiters directly.

There are currently 450+ college esports programs listed on the Stay Plugged In website. Additionally, we see colleges and universities across North America announcing their brand new esports initiatives every week. For this reason, creating a list of college esports programs is critical to an efficient college esports recruiting experience.

In the first few years of college esports, creating this type of list was a hassle. It required searching through hundreds of websites, and spending hours attempting to find the correct contact information.

Thankfully, the ability to create your interest list of college esports programs has become much easier. Through the Stay Plugged In platform, players and parents are able to discover which colleges offer esports.

How you can utilize Stay Plugged In to create your college esports program interest list:

  • Use the college search feature to find schools who offer esports

    • Filter by location and what games are offered by the school

    • Filter by whether or not the school offers esports scholarships

  • Click a college’s profile to learn about their esports program

    • Find contact information for the recruiter of the esports program

  • Use the following and messaging system built into the SPIN platform

    • Keep all messages with recruiters organized in one place

      • Easily recall the details of all schools of interest and any current offers

    • Follow colleges you are interested in to create your list.

4. Prepare for any interviews or college fair conversations you may have with recruiters.

Once you express interest in a college esports program and are determined by the program to be a potential fit on paper, recruiters will typically schedule an interview to confirm whether you are a fit as a future peer and community member.

Upon receiving an interview opportunity, we recommend scheduling the interview including your parents, and talk through how you plan to approach each conversation.

Make sure to come prepared with a resumé, elevator pitch, as well as any questions you or your parents may have about their esports program and the institution as a whole. For additional tips on the matter, check out our article on preparing for conversations with colleges prior to our online recruiting events.

5. Keep informed of and attend any upcoming team tryouts hosted by colleges on your list.

Sending game highlights, tournament results, and in-game rank to recruiters is okay. However, these items only show a very small portion of who you are as a competitor. How you handle pressure, communicate, and react to a win/loss is much more indicative of what you offer a program.

College esports programs typically host team tryouts before each semester. Most programs announce the dates of these tryouts on their website or in the program’s discord server. You may also be invited by a recruiter if your conversations are going well. 

It is important to remember that your future is your responsibility. We highly recommend you and your parents proactively seek and request this information from any program of interest.

6. Commit to a college esports program ONLY when you’ve checked every box off of your list.

When we use the term ‘committing’ to a college, what does this mean? Committing to a college esports program means that you are giving the program director and/or coach your word that their program is where you plan to kick off your college esports career.

Things to consider before committing to a college for esports:

  • Rescinding a commitment can be very damaging to your reputation

  • An official commitment should only be made when you are 100% certain that you are attending the school, and participating in their esports program

  • Visit the campus to make sure the location, community, esports facility, etc. work for you

  • Ensure the school offers at least three areas of study you may be interested in

  • Review all offers thoroughly with your parents to ensure you are making the correct choice

Since this decision is final, having a conversation with your parents prior to making this decision is a must. They can help by double checking your options, and making sure you are adding any applicable scholarships. They can also review any scholarships or grants to ensure that everyone involved understands the financial commitment you are about to incur.

7. Utilize any college esports scholarship opportunities to cut down on tuition.

First, let’s define college esports scholarship. A college esports scholarship is financial support awarded to an esports student athlete for their achievements in esports. Like in traditional sports, varsity esports programs offer scholarships for students to attend their college and contribute to their teams.

Since 2020, Stay Plugged In has facilitated over $35 million in esports scholarships by connecting players with colleges. Currently, the number of colleges that offer scholarships for esports is 300+, and is growing rapidly every semester.

Stay Plugged In’s college search indicates which college esports programs offer scholarships, and you can even filter by whether or not a program offers scholarships.


A common misconception regarding esports scholarships is that they are only offered to players who are the best-of-the-best in the game they play. The truth is that scholarships are offered to players across a variety of different skill levels. Below are the many factors that our network of colleges have mentioned to be their determinants on scholarship recipients. 

  • Skill: Competitive track record, in-game rank, and performance in recruiting showcases & tryouts

  • Teamwork: How well you work with your potential teammates, and how well you treat your peers in-and-out of the game

  • Work Ethic: Willingness to grow as a player by putting the time and effort into improving as a player and as a person

  • Trust: Reliability as a player to show up on time, be disciplined, and represent the program well during events or otherwise

  • Grades: Academic requirements vary by school, however, increasing grades increases chances of receiving scholarships

How Can Stay Plugged In Help in Getting an Esports Scholarship?

  • Create an account at

  • Search & find colleges who offer your esports title of choice and that make sense for you specifically

  • Connect directly to the esports director, coaches, and recruiters through our site’s messaging system

  • Invite these college representatives to come watch you compete in one of our Stay Plugged In college esports recruiting events

  • Work 1-on-1 with our SPIN Recruiting Specialist

    • Create a personalized recruiting plan to help narrow down the search

    • Receive a warm introduction with college esports recruiters

  • Link your Stay Plugged In profile when applying for esports scholarships