Abbott Lawrence Academy ceremony. Photo by Mary Schwalm 5/16/19Each year, the Pioneer Scholars Program offers ten Abbott Lawrence Academy students a full scholarship to Merrimack College covering tuition, room and board, fees and books.

Our Partnership with Abbott Lawrence Academy

In 2017, Merrimack began a partnership with Abbott Lawrence Academy (ALA) to create an early college program to help provide a viable, affordable pathway to college for underrepresented students. ALA is an honors program within Lawrence High School that offers top students a competitive, free public education rivaling some of New England’s best schools. 

Advantages of the Partnership 
  • Builds confidence and college readiness.
  • Fosters an environment of intellectual curiosity.
  • Encourages social responsibility and compassion.
  • Helps students in Lawrence achieve empowerment through education.

National research shows that students enrolled in early college initiatives are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and continue their education earning a college degree. 

How It Works

In 2017, Merrimack enrolled 70 ALA juniors in two introductory-level courses. In 2018, Merrimack enrolled another 75 ALA juniors and expanded course offerings to include psychology, engineering, computer science, mathematics, business, education and more. 

Abbott Lawrence Academy students begin by taking classes together as a cohort at Merrimack. Eventually, they are enrolled in classes with matriculating Merrimack students. Their exposure to college life and academic expectations is life-changing and provides them with hope and self-confidence that they can succeed in college.

Merrimack’s Early College Program Proves to be a Success


The Program is Growing.

Participants grew from 70 students in 2017-2018 to 200 students in 2019-2020.

Participants Are Succeeding in Class.

The course pass rate is 98%. 

All Participants Are Applying to College.

100% of graduating seniors applied to college. 

The Program Is Recognized by the State.

Merrimack College is the only private college in Massachusetts to receive state designation from the Baker-Polito Administration in 2018, recognizing its work in preparing disadvantaged high school students for college academics at no cost to their families, while earning credit toward college graduation.

Meet the ALA Students: Merrimack Magazine

The Pioneer Scholarship for ALA Students 

In 2019, Merrimack established a scholarship fund for Abbott Lawrence Academy students who have successfully completed the Early College Program. This Pioneer Scholarship provides ten ALA students with the opportunity to attend Merrimack College on a full scholarship, covering tuition, room/board, fees and books.

Infographic showing how students go from Abbott Lawrence Academy to the Early College Program at ...


Pioneer Scholars undergo a competitive selection process and will:

  • Submit a written application and participate in an interview
  • Commit to being residential students, living on Merrimack’s campus
  • Meet high academic standards to retain their scholarship
  • Spend their first year immersed in intensive core and intro courses
  • Receive support through our Academic Success Center

How You Can Help

The College has set several funding goals to ensure this innovative program can continue in perpetuity. With your gift, you can help transform their lives through education. 

Help Us Support the Pioneer Scholars

Video: Gov. Baker Recognizes Pioneer Scholars in His Annual State of the Commonwealth Address