Which states are the most popular for college students? As it turns out, colleges in West Virginia are popular enough to put the state in the top five for per-capita enrollment.

Per-capita enrollment is a good measure of how popular a state is for college enrollment. It reveals not just how many students there are, but how many compared with the overall state population. 

According to 2017 data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, West Virginia ranked #4 in college enrollment. Almost 8% of the state’s population is enrolled in college, much higher than the national percentage of 5.78%.

Why West Virginia? One of the strongest reasons students choose to come (or stay) here for higher education is its beauty, both of the region and the culture.

Here’s how colleges in West Virginia offer a truly unique experience and why we feel the region we represent here at Davis & Elkins College is so special.

Regions of West Virginia

The exact West Virginian college experience looks a bit different depending on which region the campus is in. These regions don’t have official borders, and people here will disagree a bit on what to call them. But according to the West Virginia Tourism Office, there are nine.

Common natural attractions across the state include:

  • Gorges, like the massive New River Gorge in New River-Greenbrier Valley.
  • Natural springs, like the spa-like waters of Berkeley Springs in the Eastern Panhandle.
  • Great forests, like the Kanawha State Forest in the Metro Valley region.
  • Riverways, as in the Mid-Ohio Valley, where you can travel by ferryboat.
  • Cliffs and lakes, as you’ll find in the central Mountain Lakes region.

One region combines many state treasures, from the Monongahela National Forest to steep hills, clear mountain streams and river rapids, and amazing views of the Allegheny mountain range.

Near and dear to our hearts, the Potomac Highlands region (a.k.a. Allegheny Highlands) of mid-eastern West Virginia.

The Great Outdoors Beckon Adventurers

The concentration of natural wonders in the Allegheny Highlands region brings all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts here.


As lovely as it is to drive through this mountainous area, there’s a lot you can only experience from the rugged single-track bike trails that traverse the wooded slopes and valleys. Quiet, picturesque country roads are perfect for relaxed biking, too.

This is a great area for competitive cycling. Mountain bike racing events are common here, over terrain US Olympic teams once trained for the 1996 summer games.


One of the best-known landmarks in the area is Seneca Rocks, located in Monongahela National Forest. Rising almost 900 feet above the North Fork River, the incredible view makes this a popular destination for climbers.

The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center offers resources for climbers and non-climbers alike. Signage points the way to a 1.3-mile walking trail that takes you to the top.


Miles of rivers, streams and creeks are teeming with trout, as are the many lakes in and out of which the waterways flow. One of the most popular fishing destinations is the Cheat River, a 78.3 mile-long tributary of the Monongahela River.

What makes the Cheat and other nearby waterways so popular is the remoteness. These waters are quiet, which is as good for getting away as it is for finding plenty of fish.


As winter approaches, the highlands area turns into a winter wonderland that is irresistible to skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. One of the most popular destinations is the Canaan Valley Resort State Park, which has won awards for its ski area.

Other gorgeous slopes include Snowshoe Mountain and Timberline Four Seasons Resort. The area draws plenty of cross-country skiers to various hot spots as well.

Caving (Spelunking)

For those just as interested in what lies beneath our mountains as the views above, the intricate cave systems of this region beg to be explored. One of the most popular attractions is the Smoke Hole Caverns, which the Seneca Indians once used to smoke game.

Due to the popularity of the sport of caving (or spelunking) in West Virginia, several caving societies have been established here to organize underground explorations.


The region offers a number of clubs with challenging courses surrounded by rapturous scenery. This is a huge draw for recreational and competitive golfers alike.

The Highlands Golf Club at Fisher Mountain is among the most popular in the area for the dramatic layout over rolling hills.

Hiking and Sightseeing

Whether you enjoy a long hike or prefer to drive or take a train through the area, there are countless breathtaking views to feast your eyes upon here. Photographers love this area for its fall colors, glistening winter snows, and the explosion of green in the spring and summer.

Beyond being picturesque, the people here, the culture and history of the region, are just as fascinating.

The Colleges of West Virginia Are Immersed in Culture

Rich in history, the regions of West Virginia offer authentic cultural experiences that are just as strong a draw for students as the natural attractions. Here in Randolph County, the center of culture is the City of Elkins.

Small-Town Charm

At first glance, the charm of the place seems like what any small college town would offer: the mom-and-pop shops, the bookstore, the movie theater that offers discounts to local students, and other establishments.

But the real draw is the spirit of the place, born out of the roots of our past.

Folk Heritage

Local organizations like the Community Arts Center and the August Heritage Center here at Davis & Elkins College work to preserve and celebrate our folk roots. If you like bluegrass music, dance, storytelling, fine art, or getting hands-on with folk arts and crafts, you’ll feel right at home here.

Roots of Iron

A visit to the West Virginia Railroad Museum or the Elkins Depot Welcome Center will help you understand why so much of the town is rail-themed. Simply put, the railroad brought industry here and played a major role in building the region into what it is today.


Out of that respect for powerful machines has risen an auto racing culture, on display at Elkins Raceway events.

The people here are equally respectful of the natural world, which we celebrate at the Mountain State Forest Festival. The event brings in tens of thousands every year.

Many cultural and entertainment events had to be canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re hopeful Randolph County will roar back to life in 2021.

Looking at Colleges in West Virginia? Come See Davis & Elkins!

Location is one of the most important factors when making your college choice. If you’re going to live somewhere for four years, it’s a good idea to do it in a place you’ll enjoy.

Out of all the colleges in West Virginia, our beautiful state, we humbly suggest you consider Davis & Elkins College.

We believe all the best the Mountain State has to offer is right here!

  • In the Allegheny Highlands, we are surrounded by all the natural wonders West Virginia has to offer.
  • In Elkins, we are part of a vibrant community, proud of our heritage and eager to celebrate it in many ways.

Our surroundings influence what happens here on campus, too.

The cultural beauty of this place touches events, clubs and curriculums at Davis & Elkins. At the same time, diverse cultures interact here, as students from all over the world contribute to our community.

Location isn’t the only factor to consider, of course. There’s also affordability.

Davis & Elkins College also offers access to a high-quality education through many financial aid options, including Division II scholarships offered to athletes. We invite you to explore these options and consider visiting our campus.

There’s nothing like the colleges in West Virginia, and there’s no place like Davis & Elkins!