Transfer trouble in Paradise: UNLV helps incoming transfer students cope with transitional problems

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Logo of the UNLV-CSN Transfer Program. Image courtesy of UNLV/Academic Advising

UNLV accepts over 3,500 transfer students each year and has done so since 2018. Currently, the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) feeds UNLV more than any other NSHE college in the way of transfer students, with the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs’ Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) program acting as no exception to the rule. 

However, despite the pipeline connection between the two institutions, incoming transfer students sometimes experience unforeseen difficulties when making the leap from CSN to UNLV.

Barry Sabine, a 24-year-old UNLV JMS student and lifelong Clark County resident, earned his associate of the arts (AA) degree from CSN before transferring into UNLV. Though he says he enjoyed his experience overall at CSN, he admits he wishes some of his credit hours had been saved for his focus at the upper level.

“I think more communication could have helped,” Sabine said. “Nobody told me I was wasting my credits on classes I’d rather not have taken.”

Sabine recalls how at CSN, he was told by his academic advisors that he needed to take certain classes, including COM 101, PHI 135, and THTR 105 as part of his general education requirements. When he arrived at UNLV, he learned those classes were not required at all by UNLV, and instead, counted as general electives on his degree sheet.

“Looking back, I took all these courses at CSN that they said were requirements for me,” Sabine said. “All of those classes were fun and great, and I met some wonderful people. I wish I’d never taken those classes, because once I transferred into UNLV, those classes counted as general electives, which you can only take so many of, and prevented me from taking other electives that were much more related to my major, like ‘211 Audio Announcing.’”

Once the transfer process concludes, the experience becomes easier for a certain lucky group of students. Incoming transfers into the JMS program begin making the acquaintance of the Greenspun Advising Center, a center routinely viewed as one of the best advising centers by the very students it serves.

“We’ve won the Student Choice Advisement Center of the Year five times,” said Rimi Marwah, director of advising for the College. “This advising center and this staff are very sensitive to who our students are and where they’re coming from. It may sound very simple, but we aim to answer the broader question of, ‘how do we try to support students first and foremost?’ I never want a student to walk in here and feel like they’re in the wrong place.”

Marwah, who has worked for the college since 2014, and is currently the assistant dean of the college, oversaw the turnaround of the school’s advising center, raising the center’s standing from 15 in the Student Choice poll to a perpetual winner of the award.

The Greenspun Advising Center welcomes students by having personal, 30-minute sessions of one-on-one time available to all students with an experienced advisor that introduces the student to their course plan for the upcoming semester and a flexible course map through graduation. 

For new students, whether they are incoming transfers or freshmen, the advising center will carve out a one-hour block of time with an advisor to walk the students through fundamentals expected of them at the university level, for example, needing 120 credit hours to graduate and how to pay for classes.

“I think for new students everything feels amplified, everything seems bigger here,” Marwah said. “We want to be an inviting team where you can ask us anything at all. We currently do over 7,000 points of contact with students. That’s not counting emails or any correspondence; this is students sitting in an office saying, ‘can we talk?’ We had a survey last year of over 500 students where 99% of them said the function of this center is seen as a resource for the student’s graduation success. I’m very proud that the students see us as a value.”

Though the advising center does well in offsetting some of the difficulties incoming students undergo, much of the damage is done by the time students begin their academic careers as Rebels. Many prospective students choose to initially attend smaller institutions and colleges, such as CSN, in hopes of limiting the price tag on their education, each school bringing its own set of graduation requirements. 

Because the requirements in earning an AA from CSN do not exactly match with the requirements to earn a bachelor of arts in JMS, many of these superfluous classes end up as electives on the student’s degree sheet, or even worse, not accepted as transferable credit, with a 2018 NSHE report showing incoming UNLV transfers lost four or more credits in 24% of its cases. The problem this causes magnifies itself as students approach the credit hour requirement for graduation. 

While many students at first concern themselves with filling the amount of hours, students on the verge of graduation actually find themselves locked out of classes they would have otherwise taken in the name of not consuming precious remaining credit hours.

“I would warn incoming students whatever degree you are pursuing, make sure the classes you take on the general elective side are the same as the institution you want to transfer into,” Sabine said. “If it’s not required at the school you want to transfer into, don’t do it. Those credit hours could have been used at the upper university level and get more experience in your field.”

Though Sabine graciously appreciates his time at CSN, the limitations his upperclassman schedule inherited through mismanaged coursework as underclassman leaves him with an irredeemable feeling of regret.

“It’s great that CSN offered to get my English done there, get my life sciences and all these social sciences done there which saves you money as a student, but then leave your electives and the main meat of your degree at the upper division at the next level,” Sabine said. 

“CSN’s degree sheet for journalism students who want to transfer into UNLV should be UNLV’s degree sheet. I would tell CSN students to ‘transfer out as soon as possible.’ Don’t wait for your AA. Immerse yourself in the community and get involved because that’s what’s going to build your resume.”

This story is a student submission from the JOUR 310 course. The story and content matter is in no way associated with the paper.

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