The first time I applied for the Disney College Program was back in 2011 (oh my God, how has it been that long?!). I had wanted to participate in the DCP at some point since I was in high school, or maybe even before that, and in an era before DCP Facebook groups had come onto the scene I was constantly met with confusion whenever I brought it up to a “non-Disney” person. This coupled with the fact that I was accepted for the Spring 2012 program and had to turn down the offer because my school had no idea why on Earth I’d ever do such a thing, plus the fact that my family’s response was basically “lol no,” left me with lots of insight into how misunderstood the Disney College Program is for people who are unfamiliar with it.
The Disney College Program really has a lot to it, and if you’re totally unfamiliar (or if you want a quick rundown to send to those family and friends who are unsure) I’d start with this list of FAQs. And for more reassurance, and just some things to keep in mind in the meantime, check out my picks for things you should know before participating in the Disney College Program…
For starters, the Disney College Program is an internship, not a regular job. It’s not perfect by any means, but I think a lot of the issues at least people I’ve talked to have had with it have been things that are pretty typical of what being an intern is like. In my own experience in other internships, the Disney College Program was actually a huge step up because it was paid. It also came with housing (that wasn’t free, rent came out of our paychecks) but having housing be a part of it was huge for me.
I had looked into so many other history-based internships while I was in college but I didn’t bother applying for many of them because they were unpaid and would have required me to find my own housing somewhere, and in college I was definitely not in a position to work for free and pay for housing. I know a lot of CPs complain about the housing on the program, but coming from a region where rent is so high and coming from the dorm situation I had in college, the intern housing with Disney was totally fine. And while the transportation wasn’t the best, I’d take the commute I had on CP buses over some of the commutes I’ve done for other unpaid internships any day.
In any case, a lot of people I’ve talked to about the Disney College Program seem to lose sight of the fact that it’s an internship. Sure, you’re working a very entry level/front line job like Merchandise or Custodial, but the whole experience is an internship, it isn’t just work. A lot of the negative reactions I’ve personally received from doing the program seem to be that people don’t understand that it’s more than simply working retail in a different place where you’d normally work retail at home.
It’s the Disney College Program but you don’t need to be in college when you do it. Even though I was accepted into the DCP while I was in college, I had to turn down the offer because I would have lost my scholarship, so as a result I ended up doing it after I graduated.
Side note: PLEASE make sure your school is cool with you doing the program. I just assumed they would be because students move off campus for a semester-long internship all the time, but as a history major I wasn’t able to receive credit for this so I would have had to take a leave of absence and doing that violated the terms of my scholarship. Of course my college now gives credit to all majors who do the DCP, thanks in large part to me, but I cannot stress enough how frustrating it was to go through the application process for no reason, so don’t do that to yourself!
To be eligible for the program, you just need to be enrolled in college at the time of your application. And if you’re graduating, you have up to one year after you graduate to do the program. The DCP is an undergraduate internship, but grad students are eligible to apply too, so even if you’re just enrolled in one class anywhere from a community college to a graduate program you’d be able to participate.
I actually recommend doing the DCP after you graduate if you can. For me, it was a nice transition into finding another full time job because I knew I at least had some kind of full time work for those six months after I finished school. Your work schedule can also get crazy when you work for Disney in any capacity, but especially for CPs because they’re usually given the latest shifts, and for me personally I’m not sure that’s something I would have wanted to deal with while I was still in school.
It’s not a vacation. I know no one flat out says they think this is going to be a vacation, but it’s definitely a mentality that sticks in the back of some CPs’ minds, and if that’s at all how you’re feeling about it the DCP probably isn’t for you. A lot of CPs self-term (aka quit) before their program ends, and while plenty of them have very legitimate reasons for doing this, there are always some who just didn’t know what they were getting into.
The Disney College Program has gotten so competitive in recent years, so it frustrates me to see CPs quit when they realize the experience really is a lot of actual work. Each season there are lots of applicants who would probably be perfect for the program but they get turned away simply because so many people apply, and it kills me to think that there’s probably some poor kids out there who never even get to take the web-based interview while there are simultaneously CPs who quit a month or two into the program.
You don’t need to take your car. You certainly can if you want to, and it’s no secret that having your car on your program will be much more convenient but if it’s going to be an added expense you aren’t sure you’ll be able to manage during an internship you can always leave it at home. The buses are…well…they leave a lot to be desired. But honestly, so does any public transportation anywhere.
The cost of taking the buses is actually included in what you’re paying for rent. It’s not something a lot of CPs really think about, but rent on the Disney College Program also includes all your utilities, Wi-Fi, access to the learning centers, housing events, and bus transportation. So when CPs complain that the rent is expensive (and it definitely is, especially if you’re coming from a town where rent is much more affordable than Orlando) you are getting all of those things included that you’d otherwise likely pay for separately.
For me, bringing a car didn’t make sense financially. You don’t make a lot of money as a CP, and I knew that going in so I preferred being able to spend my extra money on trying new things while I lived in Orlando (because let’s be real, I didn’t save a penny on the DCP). If money isn’t an issue, then by all means bring the car. It will make grocery shopping much easier and if you work mornings or late nights getting between work and home will be less of a struggle. But if it doesn’t make sense to financially, don’t worry about it- you’re paying for access to the buses anyway and while they aren’t the greatest they are totally doable.
These kinds of jobs really do make a difference on your resume. Having the Walt Disney Company name on your resume is everything. It doesn’t matter what you did, or whether you interned, were part time, full time, seasonal, etc… First of all, I think there is a lot of value to be found in any customer service job, and with Disney being a leader in the industry it’s no real surprise that having the company name on your resume stands out to prospective employers.
Each role on the Disney College Program really offers more in terms of experience than you may expect at face value. For instance, if I were to add “Custodial” to my resume, it would be easy to focus largely on the guest interaction aspect of the role. Sure your tasks in Custodial may be as basic as sweeping and emptying trash, but Custodial Cast Members are often the ones who guests come to with questions because they’re always out and about. Moreover, because Custodial Cast Members roam the parks relatively freely, they need to be able to work independently and have some sound decision making when things get crazy and they’re the closest Cast Member to a tense situation. Regardless of your role on the DCP, or of what your family or friends think of your role, know that there are lots of pros and cons to every role but each position offered really can enhance your resume.
Would you add anything to this list? Have any questions about your upcoming Disney College Program? Let me know in the comments!
Want to learn more about the Disney College Program? Check out Brittany Earns Her Ears, my Cast Member diary from a semester working Merchandise in DinoLand U.S.A., available in eBook and paperback on Amazon!