15 Jul





 min read

What Colleges Look for in an Esports Student-Athlete

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Remember the good ol’ days when applying to college just meant cramming for tests, volunteering in your community, building your social skills, and writing essays? Imagine adding hand eye coordination, content creation, and knowledge of video games to that to-do list.

For aspiring esports collegiate athletes, we have the top three things you’ll want to consider when applying for an esports program post-high school. It is important to note that every player, every school, and every game is different. Each person’s collegiate experience (and acceptance) will differ.

Keep an open mind and let’s talk about if you have to start bench pressing PC cases to get into an esports program.

Individuality makes an esports player

What college esports programs look for in a player is similar to what all colleges look for in applicants: an ability to be yourself and tell your story. For esports athletes (and traditional sports athletes) having a strong, well-rounded personality can give you a leg up if your game skills are still being developed.

In most ,college admissions advice blogs, you’ll see facts about SAT scores and how to cast a wide net of college applications. But, without fail, these blogs also highlight the importance of a ,solid personal essay.

Since esports is still a new program at many colleges, the students’ must do the work to write about their skills and why that matters. They need to tell the story of their passion to leaders.

Esports programs across the country are still in their infancy. Some of the oldest esports competitive programs in the United States date back to only 2010-2015. Just four years ago, the first sharp rise in competitive esports teams on college campus occurred.  Hotspawn.com noted that over ,300 schools competed at the College League of Legends Championship 2018.

For a player seeking to join a collegiate team, it is important to leverage your personal essay as a time to show you understand esports’ young history on campus. Additionally, it is your opportunity to show a program director or admissions officer why and how you will improve gaming and esports access at your school.

This will show you don’t just care about being admitted - you care about the legacy you will leave on that program.

Teamwork makes the dream work

If you’re seeking to play on a collegiate esports team, we suggest getting along with people. No, really. The ability to build strong social relationships with humans (or as some would say, making friends), is a huge component to being considered for any team sport.

In your college application, you should emphasize past experiences that demonstrate your ability to collaborate, show empathy, and help people in need - even if that person is your friend, co-worker, or classmate.

Esports teams rely on student leaders and a tight sense of community. To play esports under pressure, you must rely on your teammates to understand your stress, compensate for you when necessary, and, most importantly, teammates that let you shine when all the pieces of the virtual field come together.

However, be informed: playing on an esports team is not, ironically, all about fun and games. Where teamwork and camaraderie is valuable, so too are ,professional standards. Setting group norms, start and stop times, practice schedules, and agreed consequences are just some student-led ways that collegiate athletes learn how to create professional groups.

If you are still in high school, take up activities such as student council or prom committee. As a fellow gamer myself, sometimes the idea of socializing in-person doesn’t spark my interest. (Afterall, I get all my socialization playing online with friends). However, those skills in working with others to plan complex events shows that you’re an adept person and ready to be on a team.

Learn esports, don’t just play it

University of Hawaii at Manoa’s (UHM) Esports Program emphasizes interdisciplinary skills derived from being a part of the esports industry. The competitive teams are only one facet to the program. Managing a lively ,Discord, content production, social media, website design, hardware and software building, and cross-departmental networking are just some of the other focus areas UHM’s esports students dive into.

Other programs from across the country utilize student created content to support their teams. In many ways, esports programs are incubators for a student’s skillset.

When applying for a collegiate program, it goes without saying you need skills in a game if you want to play competitively. But, you’ll need to be able to show those skills. Perhaps make a reel of your best kills? Or, consider maintaining a social media/streaming presence that shows your capacity to build and generate viewers.

Actions like these become your work samples. You’re investing time in promoting yourself. For example, when you think about college recruitment for football, you often picture a group of college representative’s coming to the high school quarterback’s homecoming game. Or, they request a tape of that game be sent to them.

Either way, ,the recruiter is assessing that quarterback’s skill. They likely decided to check him out because they saw the player’s name on a recommended list, curated by other coaches and recruiters on a long, connected train of professional infrastructure.  

For esports, it is a little weird to invite a college recruiter into your bedroom to watch you play League of Legends. Again, because of its infancy, many colleges are also figuring out “what does recruiting look like for this industry, anyway?”

You need to be able to capture a school’s attention and keep it. If you can demonstrate your gaming skill in a way that also shows you can create content, then you’ve shown you’re a valuable asset to be on a team as a player and fellow student mentor.

Stepping onto the virtual field, stepping into you

If you want to be a collegiate esports athlete, you need to understand why colleges want esports on their campus. Colleges want a way to offer students innovative programs. They want students to become their full-self on campus, but the schools also want to make sure more students come, too.

While we didn’t touch ont this too much in this blog, find a college esports program that speaks to you. If you feel it will help you be a top notch competitive player, go for it. If you think that you can play competitively while learning a new skill set, go for it.

No matter where you apply as an esports athlete, be humble about your abilities, show that you can be yourself, demonstrate collaboration skills, and create multimedia pieces that reflect your range of skills.

How can I prepare for collegiate esports?

If you are interested in getting a head start in your esports career, consider joining an esports team through your school or organization. Vanta also offers, private coaching that can help you step your game up and get noticed by collegiate programs.

With a degree in English from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa (UHM), Tzana Saldania is passionate about science and communication. She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Center for Advancing Education at Mid-Pacific Institute and has worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Hawaii’s Perception and Attention Psychology Laboratory, aiding in research related to Statistical Learning in video game players.

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