What is the Disney College Program? - Best Value Schools

    What is the Disney College Program?

    Staff Writers by: Staff Writers

    You are undoubtedly familiar with Walt Disney Company, either through its cartoons or theme parks. Disney is a huge corporation, and if you have a dream to work for them one day, you might be surprised to know that they have a program for college students to gain experience and get their foot in the door.

    No matter how much you know about Disney, you may be less familiar with the Walt Disney World College Program. Even if you have heard of it, you are probably unfamiliar with the specifics of the program. So, we’re going to take a close look at this program, including what it is, what is involved in the application process, the living arrangements and course requirements you must meet if you get in, and what you can expect to gain from it.

    The Walt Disney World College Program is a paid internship program operated by the Walt Disney Company. It offers a few different options that cater to different students, including the Spotlight On, Discover Disney, and Disney Exploration Seminar streams. While enrolled in the program, students work in the Disney resort, offsetting the program cost and providing students with a small paycheck. 

    The College Program was established in 1981 and accepts about 4,000 students a semester. It is very popular with students who are fans of Disney, the Disney World, or Disneyland parks or are looking for work experience. Due to the location and reputation of the program, it is highly sought after. Students take a break from their studies to attend the internship or continue to take courses online as they work. They can also take certain classes through the program itself. 

    The Disney College Program offers a five to seven-month internship program at a Disney park or resort. If desired, this can sometimes extend to a full-year program. Generally, the internship takes place at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, or the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. The program gives on-the-job experience to students before graduation. It also educates students about the inner workings of the company and the hospitality & tourism industry.

    Students who attend the Disney College Program are fully immersed in the company’s world. For instance, most people live in company-sponsored housing, use company transportation, eat company food, attend company courses, and spend their days working at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World. After the program, many students go on to work for Disney, either in the resorts themselves or in administrative positions. 

    Many people find this internship rewarding and fun. It allows people to network, build strong connections, develop personally & professionally, build leadership & teamwork skills, and gain valuable work experience. If you’re a fan of Disney and are a natural people person, this might be the program for you.

    How To Apply To The Disney College Program

    The Disney College Program is fairly competitive. Though it takes approximately 4,000 students a semester, it receives many more applicants. On average, 50,000 students apply to the program per year. As a result, the vast majority are turned down. Those who are accepted must be able to relocate to a Disney park and live on site. They must also be able to take a hiatus from their schoolwork to provide full work availability to Disney. 

    The application process is rigorous. To apply to this program, applicants must be over eighteen years old by the time the program begins. Applicants must also be citizens of the United States, meaning that permanent residents cannot apply. Also, applicants must be enrolled full-time in an accredited institution or have graduated within the past 12 months. Students who are taking a gap year cannot apply. Graduate students can apply but should be aware that the program itself is designed with undergraduate students in mind. Finally, former interns can return to the program; however, they must wait a certain amount of time before applying to the program a second time.

    Once the application process is completed, successful applicants do an interview online, the second stage of the selection process, which involves providing more extensive information. After this, there is a second round of interviews undertaken by phone with a professional Disney recruiter. Only a select number of those invited to participate in the first round move on to the second. If the interview is successful, the student is invited to become an intern between one and three months later. Applicants have reported that the process was far more extensive than any college application they were involved in. 

    Successful applicants are those who have high academic performance, strong extracurricular activity in a similar environment, an outgoing personality, and a certain level of pre-existing knowledge regarding Disney. In short, Disney will bring on students who they believe will excel as Disney employees. As students, these interns will work in various positions on the ground at the Disney resort. As a result, Disney only hires people whose values and behavior matches that of the Disney brand.

    We should note that many colleges and universities have specific requirements for internship programs to count towards credits. If you plan to attend the Disney College Program to apply it towards your degree progress, be sure to meet with your academic advisor to check whether or not the program is eligible at your school. Also, be sure that you are eligible to complete an internship credit. 

    Like other internships, the Disney internship program can be very valuable. Internships are one of the most common ways for students to begin networking. As you’ve likely heard time and time again, networking is one of the most important aspects of university. If you network well, it is very possible to graduate from school and enter the workforce directly. With an internship, you develop professional connections that can lead to full-time work. 

    In addition to networking, internships provide you with work experience. Work experience is as important as education. In fact, in many respects, it is even more important. Work experience is valuable on two fronts. First, work experience provides you with knowledge and experience regarding the nature of work. It helps you develop a toolkit and skill set which can transfer from one job to the next. It can also help you to learn the ins and outs of a specific career path. 

    The second front referred to above is that work experience makes you valuable to employers. When it comes down to the line, employers will almost always hire the candidate who has work experience over the candidate without any. Work experience demonstrates that you know how to be a part of the workforce. You are likely already familiar with matters such as professionalism that are important in the workplace but rarely taught in college courses. 

    Classes Offered Through The Disney College Program

    The Disney program offers a wide range of courses. For the most part, these courses produce efficient workers for Disney. In large part, Disney has maintained success through brand recognition. To maintain a strict brand appearance, Disney ensures that all employees are rigorously trained, have had significant hands-on experience, and have undertaken professional development.

    The curriculum of the program is tied directly to the operations of Disney. For the most part, the classes offered are career development based. As the company grows and changes, so do the classes offered. Many of the classes are seminar-based. Others are lecture style. The courses are somewhat flexible and instructed by field experts and Disney staff members. The basic principle behind the classes is to teach career development, business, and hospitality management with a focus on the operations of the Walt Disney Company.

    Many of the courses offered during the College Program focus specifically on hospitality and tourism career prep. These courses help students learn the ins and outs of the hospitality and tourism business. This includes seminars, lectures, discussions, and guest speakers. Some former interns have reported that the class structure has caused them to reconsider their lives. In some cases, students have returned to school with the new desire to focus on hospitality management and build a career. Many have returned to Disney as full-time employees post-graduation. Other courses focus on leadership, business, and management.

    Another significant area that the Disney program places focus upon is Guest Relations. Guest Relations is incredibly important to the Disney business model, particularly on resort and park sites. By maintaining strong guest relations, Disney keeps guests happy. Areas of importance such as this get particular attention in courses. For instance, the Guest Relations Spotlight seminar includes a presentation by experienced cast members who teach students about various aspects of guest relations, including ticket sales, assisting people with accessibility requirements, and foreign currency conversion. Students are also invited to take part in a role-playing scenario dramatizing the typical challenges of guest relations.

    One of the biggest parts of the Disney College Program is the work internship. In many ways, this is more important than classroom work. Through the work aspect of the job, students are placed in a specific role at the Disney resort and work for a reduced wage. As former interns note, you can select a preferred role; however, you cannot select the role directly. Instead, you are placed into a role that Disney recruiters choose for you to maximize your benefit to the company. The process of positioning workers is fairly intensive and places workers where they are best suited.

    Also, students are educated in the professional requirements of Disney staff members throughout the program. These requirements include strict dress codes, demeanors, values, and behaviors. To succeed as a Disney team member, students must conform to the expected standards of the company. This conformity ensures that the workforce maintains a very particular brand image, embraces certain values, and presents a face of happiness. 

    Housing Offered Through The Disney College Program

    If accepted into the Disney College Program, you need to live close to the resort or park where you are assigned. The program is either hosted in Orlando or Anaheim. For most people, this means relocation, which also means that you get to meet other students from all over the country. Thankfully, the program offers a few different options to suit the housing needs of its students. 

    Students who attend the Disney College Program can either live in their own accommodation or company-sponsored housing. Most students decide to live in company-sponsored housing to make the most out of the experience and to make the process of finding accommodation easier. Company-sponsored housing consists of four gated apartment buildings. These are called Vista Way, Chatham Square, The Commons, and Patterson Square. These apartment complexes are all located on or near resort property. The proximity to the park and the other students makes the experience as immersive and self-contained as possible. 

    In 2018, a new complex called Flamingo Crossings Village was announced; however, it has yet to be completed. This complex will contain 10,400 beds, two community centers, recreational resort pools, a 24-hour fitness center, a gaming area, and more. The units themselves are fully furnished with washers and dryers, a kitchen, and a smart TV. This complex will be the largest, most advanced housing complex available to Disney interns.

    Disney refers to their housing unit as DORMS, which stands for Disney Onsite Resident Management System. These sponsored housing units include fully furnished rooms, rec amenities like pools and gyms, computer labs, and company transportation. This transportation brings students to and from work, shopping malls, grocery stores, and program-related locations. Transportation costs are also included in the cost of living, meaning that you do not have to worry about bus fares. Students must live in single-gendered apartments, and they cannot share their room with a partner unless they are a married couple. 

    While living in Disney housing, students can participate in several activities, ranging from dance parties to day trips. These events encourage socialization, help build teamwork skills, allow students to get to know one another, and provide a fun and safe living experience. A lot of participants would agree that this is part of the fun of doing this program in the first place. The housing rules are available in the Disney College Program Guide, which breaks down the dos and don’ts of apartment living during the program. 

    In many ways, the experience is similar to dorm life in a traditional American college campus. If you choose to apply to the program and are accepted, it is worth taking advantage of the opportunity to socialize with fellow interns. Though being away from home can be uncomfortable, there are several dorm room hacks that you can try to make your stay a little easier. By turning your unit into a cozy living space, it is almost possible to forget that you are away from home. These hacks include bringing small plants into the room, adding a small coffee bar, hanging photo displays, and creating your artboard for the wall. Most of these things will not interfere with the room’s furnishings and will be compatible with housing regulations. 

    The living experience is one of the integral parts of the Disney College Program. The three components of the program are regularly listed as Living, Earning, and Learning. Living means immersing yourself in the Disney community and becoming a part of it. The students who get the most out of the program are those who dive into the living experience by living in the company housing.

    Career Opportunities Available Through The Disney College Program

    Students who apply to the Disney College Program likely do so, in part, for the fun experience and, primarily, for the personal and professional opportunities it provides. This experience is an internship program, meaning that it is designed with education and career development in mind. In particular, this program is designed with hospitality and tourism careers in mind. Even more specifically, it is designed with Disney careers in mind. This fact is not lost on students.

    The Disney College Program is often used as a networking opportunity. By getting their foot in the door at a young age, students are well-positioned for their future. Working on the ground floor of operations, making connections with employees, and learning the ins and outs of the corporation makes them well-positioned for a career at Disney. For some, this career comes in the shape of a permanent position as a cast member. For others, this comes in the form of an administrative or managerial role.

    People who have worked as interns in the Disney College Program have a leg up over the competition when it comes to applying for positions within Disney parks. These positions might be located at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, on Disney Cruise Lines, with Disney English, or as behind-the-scenes workers. Behind-the-scenes positions include Human Resources, Marketing, Analysis, Finance, and more.

    Interns also have the opportunity to continue their education with Disney after graduation. For instance, graduates can apply to the Disney Exploration Seminar Series. This opportunity offers people the chance to explore the various areas of Disney’s organizational operations. These areas include animal services and event operations. Former interns can also attend the College Program Alumni Speaker Series. At CPASS, alumni can share advice and listen to advice from former students. This series also provides them with the opportunity to network. 

    Of course, not all former interns go on to work at Disney. Most return to school after the completion of their program and embark on their career path. Even if they don’t end up working for the Disney company, though, the experiences and internships provided often help these students later in their college careers or when applying for other jobs, internships, or co-op programs. Often the connections made at a Disney internship can serve the student in the form of references. 

    After completing the Disney College Program, students are better suited for a position in hospitality and tourism due to the nature of the courses. That said, as student interns work in a wide range of roles, from custodial to cast member positions, the potential for other career paths is equally wide. After working for anywhere from six months to a year in a specific job, future employment opportunities are much more accessible. 

    Like other internship programs, the College Program is a great way to develop skills, connections, and experience. This not only allows for personal development but translates directly into a more competitive presence in the workforce. Employers actively seek candidates who have a combination of education and experience. A program such as this offers both. As a result, it can be a strong pathway into the workforce, whether through Disney or a third-party employer.

    To make use of the many opportunities the Disney program provides, they must first accept you into the program. To have the best chance of getting in, you must set about to impress the recruiters who interview you. Knowing the kind of places that such a program can lead you is a great way to demonstrate that you are a serious and dedicated student. If you are familiar with the value and purpose of internship programs, it is a lot easier to demonstrate to the employer that you are a good fit for the bill. 

    There are many valuable aspects of an internship. In one sense, employers use internships to measure a young person’s potential. If you succeed in an internship, you likely have what it takes to work in an entry level position. Rather than offering full employment and taking a risk, internship programs allow employers to establish a probationary period. It also allows companies to make use of temporary workers at a low cost. Of course, in your interview, this is not the point you should make!

    To prove your value to the interviewers, it can also help to be familiar with the kind of interview questions generally asked in these kinds of interviews ahead of time. You can find typical interview questions online. In the case of a program as large as the Disney College Program, former students have likely shared their experiences publicly, as well. Common questions include: Why are you applying for this internship?; What are your long and short-term goals?; What do you hope to get out of this program?; What do you know about us?; What are your strengths?; Can you describe a challenge you have had to overcome in a work setting? 

    In short, the Disney College Program can set you up for success in many career paths. For many people, this involves a streamlined approach through the ranks of Disney. For others, this involves applying the skills that they learn throughout this program to their future endeavors. It provides interns with valuable work experience, a behind the scenes look at the hospitality industry, and a wealth of knowledge developed through classes and coursework.

    Conclusion

    If you’re a Disney fan, the Walt Disney College Program might be just the thing for you. It allows you to live, work, and breathe Disney for an entire semester or more. Throughout the Disney program, you learn the ins-and-outs of the organization itself and the hospitality and the tourism industry, and you gain valuable work experience. You will also be allowed to live and work alongside a group of motivated students in the same position. 

    This program is a total lifestyle change. The Disney College Program allows you to live on-site in a company-sponsored house. If you select this living option, the cost of housing is taken away from your weekly earnings. This fully furnished apartment is situated in the heart of the Disney resort. In this apartment, you will live alongside other student interns and classmates. 

    In addition to the living experience, interns participate in learning and earning experiences. Learning involves exploring the ins and outs of Disney’s business, career guidance and planning, and job training, and earning is the opportunity to work for Disney, anytime. You can see what working for a company like Disney is like on the ground level. It also gives you a chance to make a little money while earning college credits.

    Due to Disney’s powerful brand recognition and financing, this program is highly sought after and competitive. Tens of thousands of young people from across the country apply for the chance to work for Disney on location. After graduation, many of these people are hired by Disney in full or part-time positions. Approximately 5% of the Disney workforce entered the company through the Disney College Program. Since Disney is a very large company, this is not an insignificant number of employees.

    Taking part in the Disney College Program can be a great way to kickstart your career. Whether you plan to continue working with Disney or simply want to gain some valuable work experience, the program can help you get ahead. Of course, such an immersive and intensive program is not for everyone. However, if you love Disney, hospitality & tourism, and customer service, this program is something worth looking into.

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