Understanding The Landscape
NJ esports, like collegiate esports in general, is young. The Union Owls founded the first varsity team in 2018. Today, we have 45 colleges and universities in our state. 30 of them have or will have an esports program in the near future. Of the current programs in the state, only 6 are varsity programs. The rest are student-run club teams that have varying degrees of support from their school with many having no support from their school at all outside of being given a place to meet. Only one school we talked to actively “recruits’ players for their program. No school offers competitive esports scholarships (the average competitive scholarship is only a few thousand dollars).
For GSE Club Advisors and the students we serve, this means a few things:
- Any scholarship opportunities in NJ will be academic based
- Since there are so few varsity programs in the state and even fewer varsity programs actively recruiting (mostly for budgetary reasons) Club Advisors, parents, and players will have to take the lead in contacting schools and being their own “agents.” GSE is here to help
- Truly talented gamers will have to look outside of New Jersey for competitive esports scholarships
Who Gets Recruited?
In talking to programs both in state and out of state, we’ve identified some general criteria that players who get recruited have in common:
- All programs were looking for students who would be academically successful at their institution. Most players earning a competitive esports scholarship had over a 3.0 GPA and most players who earned an academic scholarship had over a 3.5, with most having above a 3.8. Above all else, what colleges valued was whether or not the recruited player would earn a degree at their institution.
- All programs were looking for students who had the right attitude. Like traditional sports, programs are looking for students who are coachable, open to feedback, and willing to work hard. Additionally, programs said that students who were “toxic” toward teamamtes or had streams, social media, or attitudes that were racist, homophobic, or mysongistic were automatic disqualifications no matter how talened the player was.
- Players of all ability levels. No matter a player’s rank, they can participate in college esports. While average players may be relegated to a school’s club team, starting a mid-rank and higher, there are opportunities and scholarships for players at the collegiate level. But like traditional sports, the best programs are looking to recruit the best players who were consistently ranked as follows:
New and mid-tier programs did have small competitive scholarships available to mid-tier players who checked the academic and attitude boxes.
How Can GSE Club Advisors Best Position Their Players For Success?
- Make sure your esports program is varsity letter eligible
- Participate in GSE Varsity level competition
- Incorporate and develop soft skills like teamwork, leadership, and communication into practices
- Start to narrow down program choices and prepare to make contact by spring of a student’s junior year with the expectation to make contact with a program late summer/early fall of a student’s senior year
- College applications will need to be turned in and FAFSAs need to be submitted. Be ready and coordinate with parents. Scholarship offers are never final until an application is submitted and FAFSA completed.
How To Enter The GSE Collegiate Portal
With parent consent, Club Advisors or students may fill out the GSE Collegiate Portal Form. Email [email protected] if you don’t have access to it. After filling out the form, student and program information will be shared with the collegiate programs on our list. At that time, conversation among the colleges, parents, students, and club advisors can begin with involvement of all stakeholders.
Colleges who would like to be added to our vetted list of programs and have access to the interested GSE talent may email [email protected]
In an effort to celebrate alumni and track the relationship between GPA, rank, and scholarship here are the GSE students who have been recruited and scholarshipped to play at the next level:
Whether they have a varsity esports program, student-run club program, or no program at all, GSE is committed to making sure every student knows what opportunities are available to them at NJ institutions of higher learning.
Here is every college and university in NJ, their esports program status, and contact information. Schools highlighted in blue are currently part of GSE’s collegiate portal.
A little more than half of NJ students will head out-of-state for college. The most popular destination for these students is Pennsylvania. Where NJ collegiate esports is in its infancy, Pennsylvania collegiate esports is more mature.
GSE has been working with colleges in Pennsylvania who have robust, varsity esports programs to create a pipeline for GSE gamers. PA schools currently in GSE’s collegiate portal:
Other Programs in GSE’s collegiate portal:
Programs That Offer Role-Based Scholarships
There is a growing, wonderful trend among colleges and universities to provide scholarships for key esports roles that go beyond gaming. Scholarships for roles like esports team journalist, production, or broadcaster exist.
Here are programs that offer these opportunities in GSE’s collegiate portal: