Best Colleges with Esports Programs in 2023
What could be better than playing games competitively while earning a degree in video game design or development? Maybe getting a scholarship to do it.
Just a few years ago, that would have been unheard of. But now, it’s not only possible but the reality for thousands of students across the country.
In an earlier piece, we took a deep dive into esports in college. We talked about the game, majors, career outlook, and much more. Today we’re going to cover the top college esports program in 2022.
But first, here’s a quick recap of collegiate esports in general.
What is a Collegiate Esports Program?
Esports are multiplayer video games played competitively and often with spectators. Schools with esports programs usually have professional coaches, state-of-the-art training centers, a varsity team and rec team, and scholarship opportunities, just as you'll find with any other collegiate sport.
Esports programs give students the opportunity to participate in competitive gaming while pursuing their degrees.
Top College Esports Programs 2023
What school has the best esports team and program? We hear that question a lot. But honestly, there are too many outstanding programs to crown a single winner. Besides, just like any other collegiate sport, the best teams change from year to year.
However, here's a list of some top-tier esports programs in the U.S.
Maryville University's esports program is one of the best in the country. With three national championships under its belt, a state-of-the-art facility for the Varsity Program, top-level coaches, and two divisions (Varsity Program & Community Club), it's easy to see why this school deserves their accolades.
Maryville was named Esports Collegiate Program of the Year in 2021. The school's League of Legends team won the national championships in three different years (2016, 2017, 2019). Their Overwatch team is also nationally ranked.
Their esports performance center is the heart of their gaming community, with a lag-less environment and the best PCs available. Varsity players also have access to a special lounge area and dining space.
University of Akron
The University of Akron was among the first universities in the country to compete at a varsity level while offering club and recreational gaming programs. According to the DailyGame, The University of Akron has the number two nationwide program as of November 2022.
On campus, you'll find three state-of-the-art gaming facilities and an esports arena totaling 1222 sq ft of space for the varsity and rec teams and their fans. These gaming facilities provide a hub and place of community for students in the esports program here.
UA offers an Esports Business certificate which prepares students to work in esports in positions like team or tournament managers, event coordinators, marketing, and sales.
University of California, Irvine
UC Irvine was the first public university to create an official esports program and remains one of the most popular esports programs in the world. According to their website, the school offers scholarship teams for League of Legends, Overwatch, and Valorant.
They also host annual conferences and opportunities to network and learn from the industry's most talented players. UCI is a champion for inclusivity in esports, with an Inclusivity Plan in place and their Girls in Gaming summer camps set up to advance access and interest in the sport.
UC Irvine also has a 3,500 sq ft Esports arena where they host famous tournaments such as the World CyberGames. There you'll find 36 top-of-the-line iBUYPOWER computers, Logitech gaming gear, and super comfortable gaming chairs.
Interested students can major in Game Design and Interactive Media or any of the countless other majors offered at UC Irvine.
Miami University has the nation's first D1 varsity esports program and has won several national titles and awards. Miami U's Esport Lounge is state-of-the-art, free for student drop-ins, and big enough to host meetings, tryouts, practices, and tournaments.
Some esports academic programs offered at Miami University include a Bachelor of Science in Games + Simulation, a Combined Bachelor's and Master of Esports Management, and an Esports Management Undergraduate Certificate.
Boise State University
2022 has been a great year for the Boise State Broncos esports program. They were voted best collegiate esports program in November and took home their third Mountain West Rocket League championship title for the 2022-23 academic year.
But this hasn't been the only good year for them. The program has earned many accolades, including a National Esports Coach of the Year Award (NAECAD), a Director of the Year (NACE), Broadcast Team of the Year (NACE), Overwatch Coach of the Year (NACE) 3 All-Star Team invitees, and 10 Academic All-Americans.
The esports teams at Boise State are led by professional coaches and support staff and are made up of grad and undergrad students on teams for League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League.
But Boise State's College of Innovation and Design is as exciting as its varsity esports program. Students can major in Games, Interactive Media & Mobile, and Digital Innovation & Design or get certificates in areas like Drone Technologies and User Experience Design. As an esports student, you can also receive scholarships and financial aid.
University of Utah
The University of Utah claims the distinction of being the first varsity esports program launched by a Power Five University. They have abundant resources and the top-level coaching staff to support their Hearthstone, Overwatch, League of Legends, and Rocket League teams.
The school also boasts a nationally ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program. Within this program, there are several engaging majors for students to focus on and a robust program for supporting students as they launch a career in the game industry.
Getting an Esports Scholarship
Being involved in college esports gives you a thriving community, innovative degree options, and the possibility of earning financial aid to pay for tuition. According to NACE, $16 million in esports scholarships and assistance is available for college and university students participating in programs here in the U.S.
For high school student gamers interested in getting a scholarship, the best advice is to get involved in high school esports programs now to specialize and build your skills. Then, go to tournaments and other events whenever you can.
Positioning yourself to be competitive in esports is the same as doing it for any other collegiate sport - it takes time and dedication.
Using Appily to Choose Esports Schools
We’ve outlined some of the best esports programs in the country, so you might be wondering about your chances of being accepted into them. If so, we can help with that.
With a free Appily account, you can search for and save colleges and universities that match your selection criteria. Then, after entering your GPA and any test scores, you can see your chances of being accepted. You can also search for and save scholarships within your free account.
Click the button below to get started. It’s quick and easy.