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Sydney Freeman

Sydney Freeman

Bronco Exchange Gives Prospective Students a Place for “Honest, Genuine Conversations” About Life at Santa Clara

The virtual community matches admitted high schoolers and transfers with current students, faculty, and other prospective students to chat or even share a quick meal, all online.

The virtual community matches admitted high schoolers and transfers with current students, faculty, and other prospective students to chat or even share a quick meal, all online. 

When student ambassador Sydney Freeman ’22 got involved with Bronco Exchange—an online platform that allows prospective and admitted students to connect virtually with others at SCU—she worried it would be difficult to forge genuine connections with her peers. 

But Freeman remembers an event she hosted early on that changed her thinking. For “Brunch with Broncos” Freeman and other student ambassadors bought food from restaurants around campus and encouraged participating students to do the same. Over virtual sessions, they talked about the food options on campus and favorite spots to dine with friends, like the iconic Bill’s Café and Crepes Bistro.

“I think breaking bread, even via Zoom, helped them feel comfortable and see our personalities,” Freeman says. “We could talk about the places we like to go with our friends. I think that helped paint a picture about what life looks like on campus.”

Created by the Office of Admissions after the coronavirus pandemic halted in-person activities last March, Bronco Exchange has offered students a critical sense of community when face-to-face communication remains rare, if not impossible. From the comforts of their homes, future Broncos can dive into the many aspects of life at Santa Clara, getting a sneak peek of class sizes, dining options, and university clubs as they map out their next four years.

Prospective and admitted students who register for the program online can connect with Santa Clara students, alumni or professors by phone, video, messaging and virtual events.

“Prospective students don't have to come to campus and spend money on air travel and cars to talk to Broncos,” says Freeman, a communications and political science double major. “They can just message us via Bronco Exchange, set up voice calls, and still get the same quality information and human interaction they would have in person. This probably makes it even easier for them to have honest, genuine conversations that are more convenient for them as well.”

Students who are interested in Bronco Exchange can register online, where they create a profile detailing basic information and interests. They are then matched with student ambassadors, alumni, faculty, and staff who share similar majors and interests. Or students can browse the platform on their own and connect with whomever they want.

A forum on the website allows prospective students to post questions— answered by student ambassadors—and they can join a variety of groups and organizations, including one for international students and the Honors Program. Participants can also connect with admissions counselors and search for peers with similar backgrounds: someone from their hometown or maybe a prospective student who is also interested in finance or engineering.

Randy Wang, assistant director of undergraduate admission, says that more than 700 students used the platform during Preview Week, April 5-11, while more than 3,800 signed up for virtual events.

“Before Bronco Exchange, if a student wanted to talk to a current student, engineering faculty, or whatever, they would come to us and we would be the middleman,” Wang says. “We would find a student, tell them to reach out to the student and then follow up and see if they got their question answered. With Bronco Exchange, a student can go to the platform, filter and search for whoever they want.”

Wang says the admissions office is considering keeping the program for at least another year because it benefits students who can’t necessarily visit the university in person.

Student ambassador Elena Linardi ’21 plays an important role behind the scenes, creating flyers, ensuring Zoom sessions are planned out to a T, and that student ambassadors respond to prospective students in a timely manner. 

An extrovert who thrives on connecting with students and their parents, Linardi says she struggled when the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring, forcing student ambassadors to cancel in-person events and campus tours.

But Bronco Exchange has allowed ambassadors to continue those interactions in different ways, she says.

“It has really created a virtual environment for ambassadors, current students, alumni, and professors,” Linardi says.  “And it's really cool for everyone to be able to help these prospective students who are, I'm sure, struggling so much, not being able to visit campuses.”



Sydney Freeman ’22 is one of the Santa Clara University Student Ambassadors prospective students can meet during Bronco Exchange events.