About Bridget Hotrum

As a recipient of need based financial aid during her undergraduate years, Bridget knows first-hand the relationship between financial aid and college graduation. She has been providing post-secondary admissions and financial aid counseling services to students and families in Western Pennsylvania since 2002.

Bridget founded College Bound Admissions Academy in 2002 to provide comprehensive college planning for both admissions and financial aid. Their mission — to provide strategic, highly personalized guidance to students and parents — reflects Bridget’s dedication to meeting the needs of families on their higher education paths.Bridget works directly with our clients in financial aid planning, guiding them to make informed decisions about financing their child’s college education.

Prior to founding College Bound Academy, Bridget held top-level management positions in business development and regulatory compliance at American Water Works Inc. A graduate of West Virginia University, she is currently pursuing an MBA degree.

Financial Aid

One of ASPIRE’s main goals is to provide valuable resources to maximize your college, career and financial options and help you understand the sometimes confusing process. Students must be in charge of their application process, but should utilize assistance from parents, mentors, counselors and Bridget Hotrum, ASPIRE’s admission and financial aid liaison. It is the responsibility of the student to identify private aid, know deadlines and keep information organized. If you have questions or concerns, chances are you are not alone. The Frequently Asked Questions are the best place to start.


Tips from Bridget

  • Start Early – Time is your friend
  • Use web-searches, not periodicals;
  • Photocopy;
  • Stay organized. Keep all materials in one folder or shoebox;
  • Know each of your colleges priority financial aid deadline dates. The priority date will determine when to file your FAFSA, CSS Profile and PHEAA
  • Volunteer. Community service involvement, especially longer term projects, are good for you, the community and your scholarship chances;
  • See if any of your colleges require the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile. This is another financial aid form that is used by a small number of universities in the US.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of options for Financial Aid do I have?

Generally, four types of financial aid are available. These types of aid can be combined to produce “financial aid packages.” The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend will assist you by developing a package to pay for part or all of your costs depending on your financial need.

Scholarships – Money awarded that does not have to be paid back. Given to students who demonstrate or show promise of high achievement in areas such as academics, athletics, music, art or other fields. At many schools (not all), students will receive ‘preferential packaging’ which is a combination of your GPA and ACT/SAT scores.

Grants – Money awarded that does not have to be paid back. Normally given to students based on financial need.  Grants may be awarded from the Federal Governments (through FAFSA), Pennsylvania (through PHEAA) and the college/university itself (called Institutional aid)

Loans – Money borrowed that must be paid back at specific interest rates.

Work-Study Awards – Payments earned by students who work on campus or off campus to help pay for school costs. PHEAA coordinates several work-study programs.

If you apply, you have a good chance of receiving financial aid since about two-thirds of all full-time students enrolled in colleges and other higher education institutions have received help in recent years. There are also aid programs for part-time students.

You should apply for aid every year, even if you think you don’t qualify. There are many factors affecting eligibility for financial aid. For example, a student who didn’t qualify one year might become eligible during the next year when a brother or sister enrolls in college. A change in family financial circumstances might affect your eligibility for student aid.

We all need financial aid to help afford college- who decides how much I need, and how do they determine the amount?

You and your parents are expected to pay a certain amount of your educational costs based on your family’s financial circumstances. The difference between your total student budget (e.g. tuition, room and board, fees, books, supplies, transportation, and personal expenses) and the amount you and your parents are expected to pay determines your financial need.

Federal Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
For all federal student aid programs and many others, the EFC is calculated using guidelines set by federal law. Your EFC is determined by adding the “Expected Parental Contribution” and your “Expected Student Contribution,” which are explained below.

Federal Expected Parental Contribution

  • Total taxed and untaxed income.
  • Assets such as savings, investments and business or farm investments, but not home equity.
  • Number of children or other financial dependents and the number who will be enrolled at some type of higher education institution at the same time.

Federal Expected Student Contribution
The student portion of the EFC comes from your earnings, savings and any untaxed benefits you may receive. In general, the following factors are used in determining a student’s contribution:

  • You are not required to contribute the first $3,750 you earn the year before you enter school. This is known as the income protection allowance.
  • You will be expected to contribute 50 percent of the money you earn after taxes, and the income protection allowance is subtracted.
  • You will be expected to contribute 20 percent of your net savings and investments.
  • Untaxed benefits such as veterans’ non-educational benefits or welfare payments will also be considered part of your expected student contribution.
How do I apply for financial aid?

The most important form you must complete is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is important that you fill out this form very carefully- Bridget is more than happy to help you with your FAFSA.

The FAFSA should be completed as soon as possible after October 1- DO NOT SUBMIT BEFORE October! You can obtain the FAFSA via the web at:  www.fafsa.ed.gov

Pay attention to your schools’ PRIORITY FINANCIAL AID DEADLINE DATE

Be sure to meet all the deadlines and follow instructions properly. Keep copies of all records you used to complete your financial aid forms, as well as a copy of your FAFSA in a safe place. You may want to keep one file for yourself and another parents.

What Happens When I File my FAFSA?

The information from your FAFSA will be shared with the federal government, the school(s) you plan to attend and PHEAA. The school(s) you plan to attend will coordinate this information to ensure that you receive the most comprehensive financial aid package based on your financial need.

About 3 days after you apply, the federal government will email you a Student Aid Report (SAR) that will inform you and the schools to which you are applying of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Review this form carefully to make sure the information is correct. Submit corrections promptly. Call Bridget as soon as you receive your SAR.

You may be asked for additional information to be considered for certain financial aid such as the Pennsylvania State Grant Program.

Can you explain what a Federal Direct Loan is?

Federal Direct Loans are long-term, low-interest loans made to a student by the federal government.

They can be either subsidized (where the government pays the interest while you are in school) or unsubsidized (where you have to make payments on the interest while in school, or the interest accrues with the loan. How much money will I be able to borrow? Dependent undergraduate students can apply for loans, not exceeding the following amounts:

  • $5,500 – first year undergraduate
  • $6,500 – second year undergraduate
  • $7,500 – third, fourth, and fifth year undergraduates
Are there any good web-sites providing quality information about financial aid?

Of course! I strongly recommend you check

What should I expect from a meeting with Bridget? What can Bridget help me with?
As part of the ASPIRE Program, students are permitted to have 2 hours worth of college planning/financial aid appointments with Bridget.  Ideally, you may want to take advantage of one-hour in the junior year (when college planning is important) and then, the other one-hour appointment may be in the senior year – during application and financial aid season. 
3 hours worth of time = 1 hour in the junior year; 2 hours in the senior year
Bridget can help juniors identify colleges with strong programs in major(s) the student is leaning towards, locate possible career areas based on their interests, or help them define what they are looking for. Seniors have found Bridget invaluable in the application process; she reviews college and scholarship applications and essays, offering comments and constructive criticisms. Admissions & Financial aid is Bridget’s specialty and she can help with anything from applications, essays to financial aid forms, and auditing award letters Bridget is here for parents too; she can explain the intricacies of the admissions and financial aid process, help parents with their portion of the financial aid forms, or just reassure them and hold their hands- college can be a scary thing for parents.
What should I bring to a meeting with Bridget?

Depending on what stage you are in, you will need to bring different documents to a meeting with Bridget. It’s a good idea to bring any of the following that you may have, or would be appropriate:

  • High School Transcript
  • List of Potential Schools
  • Test Scores
  • Scholarship information and applications
  • Essays (computer printed, double spaced)
  • Financial Documents (income and asset information)