If you are an avid Disney fan, you may be considering the Disney College Program. And if that’s the case, it’s really only natural to ask yourself the following questions: is Disney’s College Program worth it? Well, thankfully I have experience going through the program, and in this article, I will help you learn everything you need to know to best determine if this program is right for you.
What is the Disney College Program?
The Disney College Program started in 1981 and is a once-in-a-lifetime paid opportunity that provides you a chance to live and work with people from all around the world while gaining on-the-job experience with one of the most widely known companies in the world. During your time in the program, you will be provided a one-of-a-kind Disney learning experience through Disney University.
This is where you will build skills and make connections that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, no matter what career you may choose in the future. The Disney College Program teaches you more about teamwork, problem solving, and effective communication; skills that are essential in any career, and especially in Walt Disney World!
Aside from this, when the Walt Disney Company chooses you out of the thousands of applicants it receives, they are looking for enthusiasm and a personality that emulates the “Disney magic” they create for their guests.
People apply to the Walt Disney Company for various reasons. Having Disney on your resume not only helps you stand out on future job applications, no matter where that may be, but it also sets you up to have a successful future in the company. When starting as an intern in the program, you will have to work in positions that may not seem as appealing (with long hours in the stifling heat or dealing with not-so-happy guests). However, if you perform your role well and bring the “magic” Disney is looking for, you will be recognized by your leadership team.
If this happens, you can be promoted after your internship ends and transfer to a full-time cast member position. During my time in the program, I was offered a trainer position (even as an intern) within my first month there. When my program ended six months later, my leadership team asked me to move two steps up within the company to serve as a coordinator.
Before leaving, I was told if I ever wanted to come back to the company, I would be strongly considered for a corporate position. I knew I was not going to work for Disney long-term, but I soon recognized and appreciated that hard work does not go unnoticed there, and that the opportunity for growth within the company is available if you’re interested in it and have the drive to go after it.
If you have the chance to apply for the Disney College Program, you should go for it. Working for Disney is so much more than just a six-month internship away from your home—regardless of whether working for Disney is your long-term goal.
Disney College Program Internship
Your day-to-day life as a Disney College Program intern will never be the same as the last. When you arrive in Disney to start your internship, you will first take a few classes to learn all about the company and what is expected of you as a new cast member. A majority of the time, you do not know where you will be working or what your role will be, but that adds to the excitement of starting your new internship!
Once you learn about your new role and what the company expects from you, you will begin on-the-job training. No matter if you work in merchandise, food and beverage, guest services, or concierge, your days will be nothing short of busy and always filled with new excitement. You must be prepared to work indoors or outdoors in the extreme heat and any hour of the day.
However, the biggest thing to remember as an intern is that you are working for the Walt Disney Company, and you must always bring “magic” to your guests. For many, vacationing at one of the Disney parks is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is no secret that Disney can be very expensive, so it is your job as a cast member to bring the magic for these families and make them feel as if they have escaped reality. If you can remind yourself of this, even on the hard days, it will make working those busy Saturday’s worth it.
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Disney College Program Applications: How to Apply
There are a few requirements when it comes to applying for the Disney College Program. First, you must be 18 years or older to apply. Applicants must be currently enrolled in an accredited institution, have completed at least one semester, or have graduate college within 24-months of the application date.
You cannot apply to work as an intern during your first semester of college nor can high school students in dual enrollment apply. Disney accepts students from all college majors and students must meet their own school’s minimum GPA and credit hours to be eligible.
You can apply directly on the Walt Disney Company’s website, and can expect a three-part interview process. First, you will fill out an online application. If it is reviewed favorably, you will then be invited to participate in a live, web-based interview. From there, you will then have a phone interview before (hopefully) being offered a position as an intern.
If the interview goes well, you may skip a step in the interview process, like I did. You can expect the interview process to take anywhere from three weeks to three months.
Disney College Program Acceptance Rate
The Disney College Program is very competitive, with about a 20% acceptance rate. The program receives thousands of applicants every year, but very few are hired. This makes your interview process very critical to make yourself stand out from the competition.
My biggest advice when going through the interview process is to be excited about the potential opportunity to work for the Walt Disney Company. This goes back to reminding yourself that you are there to make a family’s vacation a dream come true and to always have a positive mindset and attitude.
During the phone interview, they will ask you about several potential guest-related incidents and how you would handle the situation. It is important to know as a cast member, you can do whatever it takes to make a guest happy or to fix a situation.
Disney College Program Interview Questions
Now, they may ask a question like this: What would you do if you saw a child drop his ice cream cone on the promenade?
The best response would be to approach the family and ask if they would like for you to get the child a new ice cream cone. If that is not possible, you can make “magic” in a multitude of other ways. Just always try to remember that, as a cast member, it is your job to make a guest’s experience one he or she will never forget.
After, submitting your initial application, you will then move on to the second round of the interview process, which is an online virtual screening. As I mentioned before, they will present you with a series of situational statements, often repeating many of them in different ways where you will either agree or disagree. You can expect statements like, “I enjoy working in a fast-paced environment.” Now, when working in Disney, there are no “slow” days, so you would want to agree with this statement.
Later in the interview, a statement may read, “I cannot handle a lot of pressure in my job.” In this instance, you would want to strongly “disagree” because you want to show Disney that you can perform well in a high-pressure environment.
In any case, you want to lean toward strong answers and answer consistently throughout the entire questionnaire. My best advice is to always keep in mind what the Walt Disney Company cares about and most values. Also, try to think about it logically—what does Disney ideally seek in a quality cast member? You want to possess and truly embody these traits.
If you successfully pass the virtual screening, you will then be invited to complete a phone interview. During the phone interview, they will ask you about several potential guest-related incidents and how you would handle various situations.
It is important to know as a cast member, you can do whatever it takes to make a guest happy or to fix a situation. For instance, they may ask what you would do if you saw a child drop his ice cream cone on the promenade? The best response would be to approach the family and ask if they would like for you to get the child a new ice cream cone. If that is not possible, you can make “magic” happen in a multitude of other ways. Just always remember that, as a cast member, it is your job to make a guest’s experience one they will never forget.
Another question they may ask is, “why do you want to work for Disney?” This is where you need to turn on the charm and be enthusiastic about all things Disney. The best way to answer a question like this is to first talk about why you value the company and then mention how you want to be a part of making a family’s vacation one they will never forget.
Always focus on the guests and what you would do to make their experience more special!
Lastly, another question that is almost always asked is, “how will you handle difficult guests?” Even in the most magical place on Earth, you are going to encounter rude guests. A lot of the time, guests are looking for something free, so it is important to stand your ground while handling the situation respectfully.
When answering this question, my best advice is to put a positive twist on your answer. You could say something like, “I would first listen to the guest’s concern. Once they are done saying what they need to say, I would consider my options as an intern, and if there is anything I could possibly do to fix the situation while reminding myself that the guest is always right—especially in Disney.”
On top of that, you might want to say something like, “If the guest is adamant and not accepting the solution I have to offer, I would ask them if they would like me to call in a leader to better help them. In the meantime, I would offer them a water while we wait on my leadership team.” You would be surprised at what handing a guest a free $4 bottle of water can do to salvage a situation!
Disney College Program Rejection Letters
Now let’s discuss a potentially cold, hard reality. If you applied to the Disney College Program but received a rejection letter instead of an exciting acceptance letter, you may be wondering what you should do?
Well, let me start off by saying, you are not the first person this has happened to, and you certainly will not be the last. When I arrived at Disney, many of my fellow cast members that excelled in the program had been rejected once or twice before finally getting the opportunity to be an intern. After all, being hired by Disney is no easy feat.
If you do receive a rejection letter, do not think that all hope is lost. In fact, you can reapply four months later. As I mentioned before, this happens to a lot of applicants, even those that are perfect for the job. Do not be discouraged and think you are not good enough for the company—the Disney College Program is simply highly competitive, so everyone can’t be accepted. Just be sure to have a positive mental attitude and an enthusiastic personality the next time you apply, and there’s a chance you’ll get the favorable result you desire.
Disney College Program vs Regular College
The Disney College Program is very different from your typical college or university. If it is not obvious by now, your daily life working for Disney is very different from a day of classes at your home institution.
During this internship, you get the hands-on experience, unlike at your typical college. You will work on skills that cannot be taught in a textbook, but instead are learned through networking and working with different people every single day.
Disney College Program Cost
Upon accepting a Disney College Program invitation, you will be expected to pay a $415-$435 non-refundable fee that supports the administration and events scheduled throughout the program.
Luckily, this fee is applied to the participant’s housing costs and is a one-time fee. If you plan to bring your own vehicle and live in the Disney housing, you will also be expected to pay a fee for parking. Be sure to apply for a parking pass once you accept your new role, because they are very limited and sometimes hard to get!
You will also be expected to pay anywhere between $175-$235 per week for housing. The good news is this is directly deducted from your paycheck and includes all utilities and amenities. Because of this, you are always guaranteed to work enough hours to cover this cost, while also having enough money to live. You will quickly hear the complaints or horror stories of part-time employees not being scheduled enough hours, so being an intern is often a better opportunity!
Does the Disney College Program Pay Interns?
You do get paid to complete the Disney College Program internship. You will be offered $14 an hour, which may not seem like much, but the perks to working for Disney are more than just your hourly rate.
As an intern, you receive free admission to the parks, along with free parking at any of the parks well. You are also able to purchase tickets for your family at a discounted rate. Not to mention the incredible discount you get as a cast member, especially around the holidays! I can promise you that when you start working there, your days off will be spent at the parks—and most of your paycheck will go to Disney merchandise!
Disney College Program Length
The Disney College Program can last anywhere from 5 to 7 months, with the opportunity to extend your internship through a second semester. The best part is that after you complete your first opportunity at the Disney College Program, you are eligible to reapply for another opportunity. Many interns do this to experience a new role and all that the company has to offer!
Disney College Program Housing
You can either live in the Disney provided housing or you can opt to find your own apartment. My recommendation is to start out at the Disney housing, simply because you will pay a lot less in rent and have the option to take the bus that they provide at each of their complexes to work.
Lucky for you, Disney just revamped their intern housing, and everything is brand new! At Flamingo Crossings Village, you will have resort-style pools, outdoor recreational areas, and a fitness center. Each apartment includes a keyless entry, Smart TV, and an in-unit washer and dryer.
The only downside to living in Disney housing is that you cannot have guests outside of the program sleep over. If your friends or family are visiting, they will have to get a hotel. However, this is a minor inconvenience for the amenities and services Disney housing has to offer!
Disney College Program Graduation
After your program ends, you will “graduate” from Disney University. The company holds a special celebration where you get to meet a graduating Mickey and Minnie and celebrate the time you spent with the company.
After leaving, you will also be invited to join the Alumni Association and receive special information and items. A lot of the time after the program ends, many interns stay and make a career with the Walt Disney Company!
Disney College Program Pros and Cons
Now that we understand everything that the program entails, let’s discuss all of the advantages working with Disney, as a company, provides you.
Disney College Program Benefits
There are so many advantages to working with the Walt Disney Company. The biggest bonus is the discounts you receive along with free park admission. Disney is very expensive, but working for them makes it more affordable! Not to mention, you learn all the inside tips and tricks to make the most of your time in the parks.
Along with all the perks, having the Walt Disney company on your resume holds a lot of value when applying for your next job if you decide to pursue a career outside of Disney. I am currently a PhD student in pharmaceutics, and I can tell you every interview I have had with different schools, along with pharmaceutical companies, every single one of them talked about my time with Disney and my experiences there.
Whether you are a fan or not of the company, everyone has heard of Walt Disney and the legacy of both the man (Walt) and the company itself. They also know about its reputation and what it takes to work there. The roles at Disney may seem simple, and they are, but working for the company is no easy feat. They truly are a step above the rest, and it takes a special person to work there and all companies across the world recognize that!
Disney College Program Disadvantages
This may sound cliché, but there are not many disadvantages to working for the Walt Disney Company. As an intern, the pay is not the greatest, but the opportunities and the people you meet outweigh the numbers you see on your paycheck.
The days can be long, and the work can be exhausting, but the first time you make a family’s vacation magical, the heat and stress on a busy Saturday afternoon will seem so insignificant.
Is the Disney College Program Worth It?
If you’re still wondering whether or not the Disney College Program worth it, rest assured: I can confidently say yes it is. And yes, in my opinion, and you should take the opportunity to apply.
You will meet life-long friends and carry the skills you learn there with you for the rest of your life. I am not ignoring the fact that there will be hard days, but the fun you’ll have and experiences you’ll share will make the tough times worth it in the end.
This article was written by Anna and edited by Michael.
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