Best Colleges in West Virginia

Higher education experts at reviewed the top 4-year colleges in the state of West Virginia. Start planning for your future today.
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Updated on July 6, 2023
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West Virginia has a 4.9% unemployment rate (as of November 2019), which is about half the rate at the height of the Great Recession in 2009. Improving economic conditions support job growth in the state's largest employment sectors, which include office and administrative support, healthcare, and education. On average, professions in these fields pay roughly $30,000-$70,000 per year, and managers often earn considerably more. To enter one of these careers, you typically need a college education. Fortunately, West Virginia boasts many excellent and affordable colleges and universities.

This ranking spotlights the best 15 colleges and universities in West Virginia — a valuable resource for potential students. You can learn about each institution's popular academic programs, student support services, and application requirements. You can also use the embedded links to visit a school's website, where you can find the contact information for admission and financial aid counselors who can answer any questions you may have.

Top 10 Colleges in West Virginia

#1 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV
#2 Marshall University Huntington, WV
#3 Shepherd University Shepherdstown, WV
#4 West Liberty University West Liberty, WV
#5 West Virginia Wesleyan College Buckhannon, WV
#6 Wheeling Jesuit University Wheeling, WV
#7 Fairmont State University Fairmont, WV
#8 Ohio Valley University Vienna, WV
#9 Davis & Elkins College Elkins, WV
#10 University of Charleston Charleston, WV

Finally, information may have changed since this article's publication. Always confirm details with a school before applying.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Best Accredited Colleges in West Virginia

Best Colleges in West Virginia

  1. West Virginia University

    Morgantown, WV



    West Virginia's premier public university, WVU educates over 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on its Morgantown campus. The university's 15 schools and colleges boast more than 130 undergraduate majors in diverse subjects, including design studies, exercise physiology, and hospitality and tourism management. Additionally, WVU's EXCEL program emphasizes experiential learning and original academic research.

    One of the largest universities in the state, WVU offers learners many exciting opportunities outside the classroom. The university's more than 450 student organizations and clubs include dozens of recreational activities and students can access a 17,000-square-foot recreation center. Also, learners can participate in one of 12 intramural sports, such as basketball, kickball, and volleyball.

    Applicants who live in state should possess a minimum 2.0 high school GPA, while out-of-state applicants should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA. WVU also uses standardized test score cutoffs. Prospective students can determine scholarship eligibility by referring to the university's scholarship chart. Incoming in-state learners may qualify for up to $4,000 per year in automatic scholarships.

  2. Marshall University

    Huntington, WV



    A public research university, MU educates over 13,000 learners in undergraduate, graduate, and online programs. On-campus undergraduate degree-seekers can choose from more than 60 majors, including advertising, dietetics, and medical laboratory science. Graduate students have even more options, and online learners benefit from asynchronous curricula delivered by the Blackboard virtual learning system.

    The Honors College at MU confers many benefits, such as merit-based scholarships, exclusive living-learning communities, and priority registration. The honors curriculum emphasizes three semester-long seminars and a study abroad experience. Honors College students remain in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 3.3 GPA.

    MU accepts GED, TASC, and HiSET scores, making the university a good option for prospective students who do not hold a high school diploma. MU uses standardized test score cutoffs; however, some applicants who do not meet these cutoffs may still receive conditional admission. In-state learners can receive up to $5,000 per year in automatic scholarships.

  3. Shepherd University

    Shepherdstown, WV



    From its Shepherdstown campus, Shepherd educates over 4,000 undergraduate, graduate, and dual-enrollment students. The school's undergraduate catalog boasts many majors, including biopharmaceutical sciences, Civil War and 19th-century America, and jazz performance. Each year, Shepherd selects 40 academically gifted students to join the honors program, where students complete a rigorous curriculum that includes multiple honors seminars and a capstone requirement.

    Shepard offers many valuable support services. For example, the TRiO Program provides first-generation and economically disadvantaged students with free tutoring and mentoring. Additionally, all learners at Shepherd can visit the Academic Support Center — or schedule a virtual appointment — to receive help with coursework and improve their writing skills.

    The average Shepherd applicant possesses a 3.45 high school GPA and a 23 ACT score. Transfer applicants should hold a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Incoming first-year and transfer students can earn $500-$5,000 per year in merit-based scholarships.

  4. West Liberty University

    West Liberty, WV



    The oldest university in West Virginia, WLU dates back to 1837. Today, the university boasts five schools that confer undergraduate and graduate degrees. WLU offers many bachelor's programs, including entrepreneurship and medical laboratory science, and students enjoy small class sizes and personal attention from professors. Additionally, distance education learners can select from four graduate and two undergraduate programs.

    WLU makes internationalization the cornerstone of student life. The university has international partnerships with institutions in Poland, South Korea, and Germany. Additionally, learners can study abroad throughout the world. WLU also provides faculty with extensive resources on how to instruct courses from an international viewpoint.

    First-year applicants must possess a high school diploma and meet specific course prerequisites. WLU uses GPA and standardized test score cutoffs. Transfer applicants must hold at least 28 transferable credits. The university grants automatic merit-based scholarships to first-year and transfer students, which award up to full tuition.

  5. West Virginia Wesleyan College

    Buckhannon, WV



    Wesleyan is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The school's most popular undergraduate majors include education and business. In class, students benefit from a 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. Students pursuing any major develop valuable critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.

    Wesleyan does not require that learners attend religious services but offers clubs and support services so that students can reaffirm their faith and give back to the community. Other extracurricular activities include an e-sports program, which the school launched in 2018. The university holds membership in the National Association of Collegiate e-sports and the American Video Game League.

    Wesleyan accepts the Common Application and GED scores. All applicants also submit ACT or SAT scores. Automatic merit-based scholarships for incoming first-year students award $13,000-$17,000 per year. Transfer students should research outside financial aid opportunities.

  6. Wheeling Jesuit University

    Wheeling, WV



    A Roman Catholic university, WU offers 10 undergraduate degrees, three graduate degrees, and two certificates. The criminal justice, business, and psychology programs offer some online courses, and learners can earn a degree in a hybrid format. Additionally, an annual research and scholarship symposium allows students to present their research findings and network with peers. Prospective degree-seekers can review a syllabus for each course.

    To ensure students' academic success and personal growth, WU offers a variety of student groups and support services. The campus ministry encourages learners to attend religious services and participate in volunteer programs. Additionally, at the career center, counselors help degree-seekers explore job opportunities and find internship placements in the local community.

    First-year applicants should possess a high school diploma and submit standardized test scores; transcripts must meet WU prerequisite requirements. Additionally, transfer credit should reflect a minimum 2.0 GPA. WU uses high school GPA and standardized test scores to determine scholarship awards, which range from $3,000-$16,000 per year.

  7. Fairmont State University

    Fairmont, WV



    Originally founded near the end of the Civil War, FSU features six colleges and schools, an honors program, and graduate-level programs. Many departments offer associate and bachelor's programs, and some offer accelerated master's degrees. Additionally, FSU's online courses allow degree-seekers to learn in a hybrid format.

    FSU promotes students' career readiness in many ways. For example, learners can visit the school's career services center to receive one-on-one help with resume writing and interview preparation.

    FSU accepts GED and TASC scores, and the university requires a minimum score of 18 on the ACT or 950 on the SAT. The university prefers applicants who have completed certain high school course prerequisites. Institutional scholarship amounts vary, and incoming students need not submit an additional scholarship application. Other financial aid opportunities include a work-study program.

  8. Ohio Valley University

    Vienna, WV



    Affiliated with the Church of Christ, OVU educates nearly 400 undergraduates on its Vienna campus. The university awards BS and BA degrees in many subjects, including integrated marketing, education, and sports management, preparing learners for in-demand careers. Additionally, professors instruct courses from a Christian point of view.

    All students attend religious services at least once per week, and OVU hosts chapters of the Alpha Chi and Sigma Beta Delta honor societies. On-campus dormitories boast high-speed internet access and 24/7 security. Student athletes at this West Virginia university can try out for baseball, basketball, and soccer teams, among others.

    OVU extends provisional admission to applicants who provide GED scores. High school graduates should possess a minimum 2.5 GPA and a score of at least 18 or 1290 on the ACT or SAT. First-year and transfer students may qualify for merit-based scholarships, and awards range from $2,000 to full tuition.

  9. Davis & Elkins College

    Elkins, WV



    D&E educates over 800 learners, making it one of the smallest institutions on this ranking. However, students benefit from a 12-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio and can choose from 46 associate and bachelor's degrees. Additionally, the college boasts an entirely online RN-to-BSN program — a boon for busy West Virginia registered nurses. D&E's pre-professional programs also prepare students for graduate study in dentistry, ministry, and physical therapy, among other subjects.

    Besides academic majors with a set curriculum, D&E allows degree-seekers to create a customized interdisciplinary studies program. Counselors help learners create a unique degree plan and provide academic and career preparation support services. The Office of Career Services requires all learners to apply for an on-campus job each semester. This experience boosts students' resumes and conveys essential skills.

    D&E accepts GED scores. As a private college, all degree-seekers pay the same tuition rate. Merit-based scholarships vary in award amount, and each requires a separate application.

  10. University of Charleston

    Charleston, WV



    With certificate, undergraduate, and graduate programs, UC attracts learners with a variety of academic interests and career goals. Undergraduate majors that lead to in-demand careers include applied computer science, occupational therapy, and a chemistry/biology dual major. Degree-seekers in one of UC's 12 online programs follow asynchronous curricula, allowing professionals to continue working while earning a degree.

    Student life at UC comprises six broad areas, such as student clubs and intramural sports. The university offers students study abroad opportunities in more than 40 countries, and the school's annual Worldfest brings together learners in a celebration of international students' different cultures. In the Global Student Organization, U.S. and foreign learners work together to implement volunteer activities and cultural exchanges.

    First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts or GED scores and standardized test scores. UC uses a student's high school GPA to determine merit-based scholarships. These awards range in value from $5,000-$20,000 per year and renew as long as learners remain in good academic standing.

Click here to see the best community colleges in West Virginia.