Game on: WCHS senior turns video games into college scholarships

April 14, 2021

Students have a new rationale for playing so many video games – college scholarships. While the awareness of e-sports scholarships is relatively new, the potential looms large. High school students have the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars in scholarships for e-sports from reputable colleges and universities across the country.

Hunter Fecteau, a senior at West Creek High School, is proof as he boasts not only top-notch academics but also nearly $35,000 in scholarship offers from three different colleges to join their e-sports teams.

The process for e-sports recruitment is in line with traditional sports. “I had a Be Recruited profile where I play sports. [The colleges] took notice,” said Hunter.

The benefit to the colleges and universities is akin to traditional athletic incentives – recognition and achievement. Enrollment is always top of mind for higher education, and reaching future students can be tricky.

With this in mind, universities are targeting students in their arena. College students represent their schools in national competitions and regional match-ups. Top performers earn notoriety while the school is afforded grassroots marketing to potential future students.

However, it does come with a balance as students must still possess other competencies and requirements necessary to a successful college career. “They are not looking for players who are the best of the best,” said Hunter. “They want to help people get through college if needed.”

For Hunter, his aspirations for gaming do not stretch beyond simply being a lucrative hobby. “I want to be a medical oncologist,” he said. The three colleges he’s considering have partnerships with medical schools.

As he navigated his junior and senior years of high school amid a pandemic, the e-sports club at West Creek High allowed Hunter an active opportunity to connect safely with other students. The club is only in its second year but already has amassed a large following. “We just encourage each other,” he explained when reflecting on their past season. “The club gave me something to do, something to look forward to.”

Mr. Zacharias, the club sponsor and cybersecurity teacher at West Creek, agrees with the sentiment. “Probably 70% of the conversations that go on in the server are not about video games,” he said, explaining how the students will connect through the school’s private Discord group. Video games were the common connection that brought the students together. “It opens the door to find people with similar interests.”

Principal Matt Slight was the catalyst for creating the club. He saw the benefit both inside and outside of the classroom that e-sports could bring to students. Mr. Zacharias agrees the students continue to see growth through participation. They develop life skills such as teamwork while playing together. “When I go and spectate, hearing them communicate at the moment, it’s all about leadership.”

For students interested in joining the club, Mr. Zacharias emphasizes, “Don’t put yourself into a situation where your academics are at risk. No matter the athlete, academic standards are important.”

Hunter insists the entire process would not have been possible without the support of his family, too. “My dad was with it all the way. My mom supports me. [They would say] ‘Whatever decisions you make, were going to be backing you.’ If it weren’t for them, it wouldn’t be easy, and the decision would be much harder.”

Like every soon-to-be graduate, Hunter still feels those pangs of self-doubt. The real world is fast approaching, and he’s hesitant. “I am just scared to graduate. Scared to move on, I know it’s going to hit me that I won’t be here.”

Teachers at CMCSS actively prepare their students for college and career. “We have no choice but to embrace [technology],” said Mr. Zacharias. “We won’t reach our students if we don’t embrace technology. It’s the only life they’ve known.” In 2020, CMCSS introduced 1:1 technology for all K-12 students. Teachers incorporate technology into daily instruction. “To connect with our students, we have to speak their language. Their language is technology.”