Early College Program

Merrimack Early College Program

Giving Highly Motivated Students Access to a College Experience Before Graduating High School

The Merrimack College Early College Program (ECP) allows high-achieving Lawrence High School students to enroll in college-level courses on campus at no charge to them or their families. Participants reduce the time and expense associated with earning a college degree. With the help of a grant from the state of Massachusetts and the Cummings Foundation, this program builds upon the College’s commitment to the future of young people.

Early College Promotes Student & Community Success

0 %

High School Graduation Rate

Lawrence High School students enrolled in Early College have a 100% high school graduation rate.

0 %

College Enrollment Rate

99% of 2023 Early College graduates are enrolled in college at least half-time. 93% are enrolled at a four-year college, up from 76% in 2021.

0 +

Early College Participants

Since its launch in 2017, more than 400 Lawrence High School students have participated in the Early College Program. 

About Merrimack College's Early College Program

Program Participants

The program is geared towards high-achieving students from:

  1. Lawrence High School's 11th and 12th grade Upper School Academy and
  2. Abbott Lawrence Academy, the accelerated honors high school within Lawrence High School’s campus.

Curriculum & Credits

Early College Program students:

  • Enroll in courses during summer, spring or fall terms.
  • Earn college credits (up to 36 credits) while still in high school. These may be transferred in the future saving time and money.
  • Take unique and challenging courses not offered in high school while getting a taste of the college experience.  
  • Learn alongside their high school peers, as well as Merrimack undergraduates.
  • Follow different career tracks like pre-med/biology, STEM education, politics and community advocacy, and human development and human services.
  • Develop valuable skills in time management, leadership and critical thinking that they can later apply to any college or career of their choosing.

College Scholarship Eligibility

Students who complete the program are also eligible to become Pioneer Scholars, which gives them a full scholarship to Merrimack College.

Program History

Merrimack College was one of the founding institutions that received the initial Massachusetts Early College Designation in 2017. It was the first private institution in the Commonwealth to receive the designation. This program builds upon the College’s commitment to the future of young people, especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities.

Early College Program Alumni & Faculty Spotlights

Carlos Reyes
"I feel like the Early College Program has shaped my entire life. If it wasn’t for the Early College Program I probably wouldn’t have gone to college and it’s not because I didn’t want to go – it was for financial reasons. It would be almost or near impossible to (attend).”
Carlos Reyes '23
Early College Program Alumnus & Biology Major
"When I went home and I talked about pursuing my master’s degree and my career choices, it inspired my family. My mom went back to school and now she’s finishing her associate’s degree, and my younger sister said she’s concentrating on going to school too. They thought if I could do it, they could do it.”
Yameily Villaronga ’25
Early College Program Alumnus & Political Science Major
"When [Early College Program] students feel like they have ownership and agency over their education, that is a huge sign of success for us. They are growing and finding their voice and connecting their career goals to serving their communities, which is a critical part of Merrimack’s educational mission.”
Kirstie Dobbs
Assistant Professor of Practice,
Director of Early College and Faculty Community Engagement Strategy

The Path of an Early College Program Student

One Course & Curriculum Support
Students’ first year in the program sees them taking one course a semester with each other: Introduction to Biological Science and Politics of the United States. They receive curriculum support through a high school support teacher.
Full Classroom Immersion
In their second year, students take more courses, including Foundations of Data Science, Anatomy & Physiology, Statistics, Intro to Criminology, Principles and Foundations of Education, Psychology, Intro to Business, Intro to Human Development, and many more. Students enroll in these courses alongside current Merrimack College students to provide full classroom immersion on campus.
Additional Courses
Students also have the option of taking summer and winter courses throughout their time in the Early College Program helping them get even more course credits. If a student takes advantage of all the courses offered, they can earn up to 36 total college credits.
Additional Courses
After graduation, students interested in attending Merrimack College may apply for one of 10 Pioneer Scholars Scholarships, which provides full tuition to Merrimack for all four years of undergraduate study. The program was launched in 2019 by Merrimack College President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D.

Every year, more than 1,000 college credits are earned by Merrimack Early College Program students.


The College has set several funding goals to ensure the continuation of this innovative program. With your gift, you can help transform the lives of Early College Program students through education.

Your contribution to the Early College Program doesn’t just impact the lives of the students in our program. Your support also makes an immense impact on the Lawrence community. Early College Program students are a point of inspiration to their families, peers, and city and often inspire family members to advance their own education.

Summer Research Experience

As Merrimack College expands its commitment to research, the Early College Program also works to increase the number of research opportunities available to students during summer sessions.

Early College students will:

  • Continue their experience at Merrimack through a summer research program.
  • Conduct impactful research with world-class College faculty.
  • Participate in research within the political science, biology and psychology departments.
  • Earn course credits, receive financial compensation and develop insightful first-hand research skills.