This has been such a highly requested post, and I’ve put off writing it for so long simply because I’m just not a fan of the term “regret.” Sure, there are some things I would do differently if I had a chance to do the Disney College Program again, but as time has passed since my program and I’ve had plenty of time to thing about these so-called “regrets” I think they were just a part of me growing as a person. But you guys asked, and it’s been so requested so let’s jump into my list of (maybe not necessarily regrets) but things I would do differently, and some tips if you find yourself in the same situation…
I didn’t know if I would receive college credit until after I applied
The first time I applied for the Disney College Program was way back in 2011. I got into a bit more detail of my first experience applying (and why it didn’t work out) in my book, but long story-short, I somehow managed to apply, interview, and get accepted before hearing back from my college if I’d even be able to go. And of course, their answer was no. I did make an appointment with my adviser, but my application process went so quickly that time around that our meeting ended up being after I was accepted. He quickly told me that I would not receive college credit for the program, and I’d have to take a leave of absence.
Later the same day, the financial aid office informed me that taking a leave of absence would violate the terms of my scholarship, and if I did so I would lose it (and therefore not be able to afford that college). What resulted was a week-long emotional roller coaster of second guessing everything about what I was doing in college (and even if I wanted to be in this college), and I ultimately had to decline my offer to participate in the program and wait three years until after I graduated to do it. Again, I would say a lesson was learned from this experience, but it’s still not something I’d want to re-live.
TIP: If you’re not 100% sure doing the Disney College Program is cool with your college, check with them before you apply. It would be much easier to skip applying until your last semester than to go through the motions and not be able to go. (And for the record, I was the first person from my college to do the program, and they’ve seen started offering credit for it!)
I could have reacted differently to my family’s lack of interest
Sorry family who may be reading–but the reactions I got for my interest, acceptance, extension, and later another application to the program was totally not okay. I don’t think many students have to deal with this, as from what I’ve seen most families are just as excited as the future CPs are, but mine was not. They didn’t understand the value of the program, what it would add to my degree and professional experience, or how it could possibly be worth the program fee, and why I would move so far away for an internship.
At the time, I tried to hide my excitement and I essentially walked on eggshells when deciding how and when to discuss it with them. And every negative conversation about my participation in the program was only 10x worse when I applied (and interviewed) for another program a year after my return while I was out of work. Looking back on all of this now, I wish I hadn’t let it get to me as much as I had. I’m obviously thrilled my family cares so much, but taking their feelings to heart so much only caused me a lot of unnecessary stress while I simply tried to do what I had worked so hard to accomplish and balance those feelings of excitement with constant disapproval.
TIP: If your family also doesn’t approve of the program, listen to what they have to say but find other friends or family members you can share your excitement with. It’s not worth the stress of having the people so close to you bring you down and thanks to the internet there are plenty of future CPs out there who will genuinely be happy for you.
I didn’t pick up shifts in as many locations as I could have
This is really a small “problem” in the grand scheme of the Disney College Program, but looking back this is something I wish I did more of. My role on my first program was Merchandise, so I had the ability to pick up shifts almost anywhere, and I did to some extent. Once I found a couple of locations outside of my own that I really enjoyed and was comfortable with I ended up picking up there a lot (Future World in Epcot, and Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom).
I didn’t pick up a shift in Hollywood Studios until my second program when I was actually working in Attractions, and at that point Merchandise felt like it moved slower compared to my current role and I didn’t rush to pick up many more shifts. And while I did eventually work in all of the parks and one of the resorts, in Animal Kingdom I only ever worked in my home location of DinoLand U.S.A. I think if I were able to do it again, I’d pick up a shift in Asia or Africa, or even try for one of the water parks or Disney Springs.
TIP: If your role allows you to work in different locations–do it! If your role is more restrictive in that respect, try picking up a Parade Audience Control shift or special event shifts (like treat shifts during the Halloween Party) as these are typically open to Cast Members in any role.
I didn’t listen to my gut when it came to switching roommates
When my fall program was over, I was forced to find new roommates for my extension (my current roommates were all either moving out of Disney housing or not extending). Since I had a terrible experience going random with my first college roommate and an entirely opposite experience with my first roommates on the DCP who I found on Facebook, rooming with people I knew seemed like the most logical choice. I opted to live with this girl who had originally planned to room with my first roommates and I, but her date got changed and it didn’t work out. I didn’t know her roommates, but I knew her and thought that was a better solution than going random. WRONG.
Before we were to move in together, I met her at her apartment before a trip to the parks and was briefly introduced to her roommates… one of which was yelling, while the other was crying and having some sort of meltdown. I immediately worried that this was some kind of high school BS that I wouldn’t have the patience for if I lived with them, but the fear of going random was strong, and it was late in the process to find different roommates so I ended up sticking it out. It turns out it was essentially high school drama, and it was something that happened on a regular basis, as was a complete and utter disregard for cleanliness of any kind in common areas (and the other bedroom in our apartment, which caused us to fail inspections multiple times).
TIP: If you have a bad feeling about roommates from the beginning, go random instead, and while it can be an awkward conversation you’re better off breaking it off in the beginning than dealing with a less than ideal living situation. I was so afraid of living with strangers, but because I didn’t follow my instinct on this I ended up losing money from my check each time we failed inspections while continually dealing with all kinds of drama and various issues over the course of that program,
I didn’t go to enough housing events
I can probably count on one hand the number of housing events I went to. I went to my arrival date’s welcome event, and a couple of others when the character meet and greets were interesting, but for the most part I spent my time in the parks instead. (I’ve never even been to the ever-so-popular Grocery Bingo!) Part of this was that my schedule was opposite most of my friends, (I worked in Animal Kingdom when the park still closed earlier, and then at a show that ended at 4:30).
Even though going alone may have been weird at first, it’s still something I kind of wish I did now. While I don’t live right outside of Disney anymore, in theory I can go to the parks anytime still, but I can’t just pop into Grocery Bingo when the mood strikes today, On the subject of housing events, I also never got my picture taken with Mickey and Minnie in their graduation caps and gowns. I totally just didn’t have the patience for the long line at the time, but I wouldn’t complain now if I had stuck it out and got that photo!
TIP: Don’t force yourself to do anything you really don’t want to, but at the same time make time for at least some of the housing events. They can be really fun and you won’t be able to experience them once your program is over.
I think that’s really it– I hope this post helps anyone who may be dealing with these kinds of situations now, and please know that even if things don’t 100% go your way (see above!) the program is still going to be the best internship experience you can possibly have, and every struggle is worth it in the end.
Thanks so much for reading this one! If you have any questions or want to share something you regret (or are worried about regretting!) from the Disney College Program leave it in the comments below!