Wondering what the Disney College Program is all about? Ever see a Disney cast member with a college or university listed on their nametags but you’re not sure why? Check out these frequently asked questions about the Disney College Program, and learn some tips for applying and enjoying your time in Florida or California* (California’s program has not returned following changes from COVID. Keep an eye on Disney’s official sites for the latest updates):
This post was last updated July 31, 2021.
Q: What is the Disney College Program?
A: The Disney College Program is a paid internship experience at the Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort* that combines three primary elements—living, learning, and earning. Participants live in company-sponsored housing, work in front-line roles around Disney property, and have the opportunity to pursue educational seminars, collegiate courses, networking events, workshops, and more. The program may be done during a semester in college, or following graduation. Participants may apply during their freshman year, but they may not spend their first semester of college on the program.
Q: Do CPs (College Program interns) receive credit for the program?
A: Whether or not CPs receive college credit for the Disney College Program depends on their individual schools. Some schools offer a full semester’s worth of classes simply for participating in the program, while others offer credit for one course assuming some amount of extra work is done, and others do not give credit at all. Discuss the program with an academic advisor or career services before committing to the program, and remember that if you cannot receive credit or take a semester off for the program, you can always participate the semester after graduation.
Pro-tip: Make sure you leave ample time to confirm with your college that you’ll be able to do the program. The first time I applied for the DCP, I went through the entire application process before learning that my school did not give credit and I would need to take a leave of absence (and thereby give up my scholarship). So after getting my hopes up, I was forced to put the DCP on hold until after graduation. Don’t let this happen to you, and confirm with your school that you’ll be able to do the program before you apply!
Q: How do I know if I’m eligible for the program?
A: You must be enrolled and taking classes at an accredited university with at least one semester under your belt (basically you cannot spend your first semester of college on the DCP). You are eligible to apply up to 24 months after graduation, too (this info is current for 2021- If you are applying for a later program confirm this with Disney as the date was extended during COVID.) Currently, the DCP is available to students in the US and Puerto Rico. You must also be at least 18 years old, have US work authorization, and meet any requirements from your school (some schools have GPA or other requirements if you are doing the program for credit, and I strongly recommend checking what the program would do to your financial aid eligibility before you apply.) If you are an alum of the program you also need to wait four months from your last departure date to apply again.
Q: How does the Disney College Program affect financial aid, student loans, and/or enrollment statuses?
A: The program’s impact on financial aid, loans, and college enrollment again depends on each individual college and situation. Some students may be able to take a semester off and continue with their regular financial aid plans, while others may lose scholarships if the program does not count for credit. Loans vary based on the type of loan, timeline in the payment process, and the loan provider, and enrollment status can vary based on how each college works with the program. Contact your loan provider or academic advisors at your college for information on how the program can affect these areas.
If you’ve already started paying your loans (and you have standard student loans, not private loans), you may be able to defer them or lower your payments during your program. While Disney’s pay rates (even for CPs) are slightly higher than other companies with similar jobs, the pay isn’t enough to make your loan provider think you’re making enough for a high monthly payment. Talk to your loan provider about using an income-based payment plan during your program if you can to help lower your payment.
Q: Do you need to take classes during the program?
A: Classes are not a requirement for the Disney College Program, unless otherwise noted by your individual college while receiving credit for the program. Seminar style classes do not include homework and are only a couple of weeks long and may be taken just for experience or based on interest, while collegiate classes are offered for those who are looking for more regular coursework and to receive credit. Exam proctoring and distance learning opportunities may also be available.
I took a seminar class on Exploring Marketing and I loved it! Sure it took up a couple of hours on my days off, but it was totally worth it. Although I majored in history, I work in marketing now and this class was honestly what got me interested in this field. Even if you don’t need the classes for credit, I highly recommend checking out the seminar offerings to see if anything interests you.
Q: Do you need to live in company sponsored housing?
A: No, living in company sponsored housing is not a requirement. CPs may opt to find their own housing, which may or may not be less expensive (depending on a number of factors like roommates, location, amenities, transportation costs, etc…) though many CPs choose to live in program housing as it can be easier than securing a short term lease on their own, and transportation to and from work is included in the rent. Additionally, housing events take place for CPs, and many participants worry that by living off site they may miss out on some of the experience.
There are lots of perks to staying outside of company housing, but if the Disney College Program is your first time away from home (or a dorm room), I recommend staying in housing. (Plus, Flamingo Crossings looks beautiful! Who wouldn’t want to live there…) Disney housing is all apartment-style, and it’s basically a step between a dorm and an actual real-world apartment. You have some independence (though room inspections and security can be frustrating), but you won’t have a meal plan or anything too “dorm-like.” The higher price point of Disney housing could be a turn-off, but so much of the renting process is taken care of for you and in most cases it makes doing the program much easier.
Q: How many hours do CPs work?
A: CPs work a minimum of 30 hours a week, but during peak seasons with overtime may work upwards of 60 hours. Due to the nature of working in a resort that is open nearly 24/7 every day of the year, CPs must have full availability during their programs (with the occasional exception that classes will take place either on days off or hours before or after work). It is difficult to predict exactly what your hours can be like because they really vary by role, location, and time of year, but a minimum of 30 hours per week should be expected.
I averaged about 40 hours/week for both of my programs working in attractions and merchandise in Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. My friends who worked in Magic Kingdom, specifically in custodial averaged about 50 hours. It does really vary by role and location, but you usually have opportunities to pick up shifts or stay later if you want to, and you can always put in to ER (early release) during your shift and see if it gets approved. Disney also pays overtime when you work over eight hours in a day, so you can make some extra cash by picking up an extra shift or trying to extend a shift on a given day.
Q: What is the application process like?
A: Typically, CPs fill out a basic application on the Disney Careers website. If they are selected to move on with the process, they will be asked to complete a web-based interview that is essentially a series of (timed) questions about their personalities and work habits. Applicants who pass the web-based interview will be asked to move on to schedule a phone interview, which will either lead to an acceptance or a “No Longer in Consideration” message. Not all applicants are asked to move on with the process upon submitting the application, and there is no definitive way to know whether or not one will be selected to move on. Note: Following the COVID-19 crisis, this process has been streamlined. While Disney has not made an official announcement yet, I’d expect the DCP to return to a similar process in the next year or so.
Q: Are applicants randomly selected to move on to the web-based interview?
A: No, Disney College Program recruiters have repeatedly stated on the official Disney Internships and Programs Blog that invitations to move on to the web-based interview are not given out randomly. Each individual application determines whether or not you will be selected to move on, and Disney has never officially released information as to what pushes an application through to the web-based interview and what does not. If you are interested in applying for the program, fill out the application to the best of your ability and try not to compare your progress with the progress of others—everyone has a different experience while applying, and many applicants never share their experiences online. Comparing your application to others may only end up causing you unnecessary stress.
Q: What does “Under Review” mean?
A: This just means that your application is still being reviewed. Some applicants move to the “Under Review” category immediately after submitting an application and they can stay there for weeks, while others move right through the process. You can get “stuck” in “Under Review” at any point in the application process, and while it is frustrating to not have the answer you’re looking for it’s important to not give up. Unless you receive a “No Longer in Consideration” notification, you’re still in the running!
Q: How much does the program cost?
A: There are a series of fees that must be paid while accepting an offer to complete the program that range from about $415-435 for the Walt Disney World program. These fees cover the cost of housing events and rent payments for the first couple of weeks of the program.
Q: How much does rent cost and how do you pay rent?
A: Rent is paid weekly and costs anywhere from about $175-235 per person depending on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, apartment complex, and number of roommates. Rent is deducted automatically from each paycheck, except for the first two weeks or so when rent is covered by the program fees.
Q: Can time-off requests be accommodated?
A: CPs may put in requests for time off from work, however requests are not guaranteed to be approved, and they depend on the availability of other cast members and business needs during the selected days. CPs may swap shifts to change their days off if they only need to switch one or two days in a week. You’ll be able to better understand how time-off requests work when you start working and can speak to your leaders at your work location and access Disney’s cast member websites to put in requests, but in short, yes, time-off requests can technically be accommodated but the process may vary by your location.
Q: When living in program housing, where does the included transportation go?
A: Housing includes bus service to every CP work location, including the theme parks, resorts, waterparks, and Disney Springs, as well as Publix, the Post Office, Wal-Mart, and the Florida Mall. Bus schedules vary, and CPs may view a printed schedule or download a real-time mobile app, however it is suggested that they leave for work early to ensure that they arrive on time given that the buses can fall behind schedule and they make multiple stops.
Q: When can I start going to the parks with my complimentary pass?
A: The short answer is after Traditions (the training every Cast Member must do before starting work). Traditions typically takes place a couple of days into your program, and you are usually given your Main Entrance pass shortly after (or told an alternative way to enter the parks with your ID.) This all varies by program, but it will be pretty close to when you start unless there are some intense capacity limits or Cast Members are blocked out.
Q: I have questions that were not addressed here—where can I find more information?
A: For more information about the Disney College Program, visit the official Disney College Program website or the official Disney Internships and Programs Blog. Personal blogs, vlogs, and Facebook groups may be helpful for seeking insight from other current and former CPs, but remember that these are not official sources of information and should be taken with a grain of salt. Always look for sources that are direct from Disney for the most up-to-date information about the Disney College Program. If you have questions about my experiences with the program you are welcome to leave a comment here or reach out to us on Facebook!
If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below!
Where to next?!
- My Disney College Program “Regrets”
- 7 Tips for Choosing Roommates on the Disney College Program
- #AskaCP: What Did You Like/Dislike About Your Apartment?