What They Don’t Tell You About The Disney College Program

If you look up the ‘Disney College Program,’ you’ll get the basic run down. It’s a paid internship at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. or the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. for 5-7 months, depending on when your program starts/ends. You can be cast in one of several roles including merchandise, custodial, food and beverage, attractions, boutique host/hostess and entertainment. You can even take classes for college credit and attend seminars to improve your networking skills or to learn more about Disney history.

But the websites, pamphlets, newsletters, various blog sites and information sessions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what the Disney College Program truly is.

They don’t tell you that the first week is just as emotional as your last week.

They don’t tell you that going to Casting makes you feel like every dream you’ve ever had is finally coming true.

They don’t tell you that waiting for your Cast Member ID is torture. (I wanna be where the people are…and all of the people are at Disney and I can’t get in yet.)

They don’t tell you that Traditions will fill your heart with so much love for The Walt Disney Company.

They don’t tell you that the first time you walk into Magic Kingdom as a Cast Member you will feel like you’re finally home.

They don’t tell you that life is the bubbles those first few days when it’s nothing but going to the parks and waiting for training to start.

They don’t tell you that you will most likely come home from your first day of training crying to your roommates because it’s all so overwhelming and new and confusing.

They don’t tell you that the first few weeks of work are the hardest.

They don’t tell you that it gets easier.

They don’t tell you that being a CP means, essentialy, being a ‘closing person’ for 98% of your program, except for those really rare occasions where you get an opening shift and get out of work when there’s still sunlight. (Cherish those moments)

They don’t tell you that those nights where you work until 1am are the nights where you bond with your fellow cast members the most, especially other college program participants.

They don’t tell you that this is where you’ll make friends for life.

They don’t tell you that closing shifts almost always end with a trip to Steak ‘N’ Shake, IHop, Denny’s, McDonald’s or Taco Bell with your coworkers.

They don’t tell you that Trails End is literally the best place to get breakfast on property because 1) ALL YOU CAN EAT and 2) $13. (Those CM perks though)

They don’t tell you that time goes by a lot faster than you think, and suddenly you wake up and you only have a few weeks left to do everything you didn’t do the previous 4 months.

They don’t tell you that exploring the parks on your days off is awesome…but that you should venture out of Disney sometimes, too. (Beaches are only an hour/two hours away, and it’s nice to visit other theme parks even if you’re the biggest Disney fan out there–Universal and Busch Gardens are pretty fun.)

They don’t tell you that Wishes will always give you chills.

They don’t tell you that going to House of Blues is a must, at least once. (Except now you must be 21+ to get in; sorry young padawans)

They don’t tell you that work will be difficult some days but that your friends at work will always make it better.

They don’t tell you that you’ll develop a crush or two, and sometimes it’ll work out and sometimes it won’t.

They don’t tell you that your friends, though, will become the backbone of your program. You will literally spend night and day with them, whether they’re your roommates or coworkers.

They don’t tell you that everyone you work with becomes your second family, and that, if you’re lucky, they’ll always be there for you.

They don’t tell you that you will want every piece of Disney merchandise ever created, ears and light sabers included.

They don’t tell you that Transtar is a NIGHTMARE. (If you have a car, you are blessed. If you have friends with cars, you are blessed. If you don’t have either…make some friends really fast or may the odds be ever in your favor.)

They don’t tell you that meeting your favorite characters over and over again will never get old.

They don’t tell you that being The Rebel Spy is life changing.

They don’t tell you that going to the parks alone can be really nice sometimes. Therapeutic, even.

They don’t tell you that the parks are really amazing photography subjects and that taking a picture of the same thing is worth doing because no two pictures ever look the same. (And that’s why I have a million pictures of Cinderella Castle, various firework shows, Festival of Fantasy, Spaceship Earth, and the Hollywood Tower Hotel.)

They don’t tell you that getting pixie dust is always the answer to any problem. (But be warned; you will be permanently pixie dusted for life. That glitter is hard to get out.)

They don’t tell you that playing in the parks when it’s raining is actually the best because as long as you have a poncho, you’re golden. (Besides, we all know it rains for like, .5 seconds when it rains in Florida, anyway.)

They don’t tell you that a mental breakdown is possible and highly likely, because the stress can get to you. But that’s okay; it happens to the best of us.

They don’t tell you that you get homesick even though you’re having the time of your life.

They don’t tell you that you’ll make some mistakes, but it’s part of growing up.

They don’t tell you that the program will make you a better person.

They don’t tell you that closing a park is the best thing ever (because who doesn’t want pictures on an empty main street?)

They don’t tell you that you’ll memorize the words/lyrics to things like Festival of Fantasy, Celebrate the Magic, Wishes, Tower of Terror and The Haunted Mansion…or maybe that’s just me?

They don’t tell you that you’ll meet people from all over the country and world and catch the travel bug. (Because making friends from all over means not having to pay for a hotel when you travel, which is perfect.)

They don’t tell you that even though you’re the one who is supposed to be making magic, the guests will surprise you some days by making magic for you, whether it be getting a hug from a little princess or getting told that you made a whole family’s vacation by being so engaging and kind to them.

They don’t tell you that graduating from the program is bittersweet.

They don’t tell you that the last week is the hardest and that there is no way to prepare for it.

They don’t tell you that the last few shifts you work with everyone will be emotional.

They don’t tell you that you’ll cry pretty much every day that week. And yes, even when you think you’ve cried all the tears you can cry, you cry some more.

They don’t tell you that the last night of work is filled with hugs, plenty of pictures and promising to keep in touch. (And seriously, keep in touch. You’ll regret it if you don’t.)

They don’t tell you that the last time you visit each park will be hard because you can’t imagine a life where getting up in the morning and deciding to go ride Tower of Terror before work is not a thing.

They don’t tell you to take an obnoxious amount of pictures. Yes, it’s wonderful to live in the moment, but it’s also wonderful to have something to look at once your program ends to remember the amazing time you had.

They don’t tell you that the last time you go to Magic Kingdom with everyone will be the worst night you’ve ever spent in Magic Kingdom.

They don’t tell you that you’ll hold onto your friends for dear life as Celebrate the Magic starts.

They don’t tell you that trying to sing along to Wishes and bawl your eyes out at the same time will result in the saddest, but sweetest, eruption of giggles ever.

They don’t tell you that throwing your graduation ears into the air and trying to get a picture of it is actually kinda extremely difficult but also makes for some of the funniest fail pictures ever.

They don’t tell you that the moment you say goodbye, you’re already wishing you could hit the rewind button and start all over again.

And, lastly, they don’t tell you that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and that no matter what happens, it’s one of the best journeys you will ever go on. So cherish every moment, live in the present, be prepared to lose sleep, go on adventures, step out of your comfort zone, make connections and dare to dream โค




182 thoughts on “What They Don’t Tell You About The Disney College Program

  1. My daughter just got accepted for spring 2016, too, and is really excited at the prospect – her advisor (at Purdue) not much! She’s going to school in Ireland this semester, so it’ll just contine the adventure. (We’re all such Disney geeks anyway…)

  2. Reading this made me even more excited to apply! I can’t wait to experience this! If you have any tips for the application, I’d love to hear them.

    1. My biggest tip is be HONEST in your application. If there a role you wouldn’t be truly happy in, do NOT express interest in it! Nothing will be worse than getting accepted…but then being miserable your whole program because you hate your role. Also, take your time going through the application and make sure to read everything. Don’t rush through sections or rush to give answers.
      And, if you make it to the phone interview, have questions prepared, do your research, and talk with a smile. I promise they can hear it ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. This is such a good read, you are doing an awesome thing. However, Transtar is far from a nightmare. In this world it is a miracle if something works perfectly, but all the CPs that complain about Transtar need to learn the definition of a first world problem. I’m sorry that your free 24-hour bus system that you can track on a map will take you straight to your apartment complex and also straight to your work location and also to the post office, the mall, Walmart, grocery stores, and anywhere on Disney property for leisure for free every twenty minutes or so. Yes, buses break down occasionally, and the drivers are Florida natives (it’s a job requirement, but also means they’re no better than the idiots already on the road), but your work location is required to accommodate you when the buses mess up–which is unheard of in the real world. So count your blessings homegirl. I’ve had a car on two CPs at WDW and I would much rather ride the free bus than waste my own gas and hardly ever get there any faster.

    1. While I understand your point, during my CP, the buses broke down, caught on fire, and got into accidents more often than not. In addition, our work locations did NOT accommodate us when the buses messed up. I didn’t use my car for the first month of my CP and while yes, I saved money on gas, I also didn’t feel incredibly safe and didn’t enjoy leaving earlier than normal to get to work on time to avoid getting a point. I preferred driving and was more than happy to take fellow cast members to and from work with me.

  4. I was a CP in Fall Advantage 2001. I miss it. Reading your post made me cry. Thank you. I’m considering moving down there to be close to the magic.

    1. Thank YOU so much for taking the time to read this, and I hope some of those tears were happy! And if you want to move back, your home and your second family will always be waiting โค๏ธ

      1. That was really nice of you to say! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m thinking about it. Really. A whole lot. A WHOLE lot. The magic touched me and has been with me through a good life. I’ve made some mistakes, but the magic has always helped me bounce back and get back on track. I miss the sunshine, the people, the atmosphere. I miss it all. I was looking at Golden Oaks. WOW! How can I find you on Facebook? I’ll add you. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. I only live three hours away and I miss it terribly too! Being so busy I can’t escape to my happy place very often, but when I do I fall in love all over again. And my name on Facebook is Monet Massa-Sena– do not hesitate to add me!

  5. My Daughter got accepted for the Spring 2016 season. She’s so excited! This has been a goal of hers since she was little and experienced Disney World for the first time. I hope she has the time of her life, and all her dreams about the program come true!

    1. Tell her congrats! She is about to embark on a life changing journey that, as you will see, will make your daughter change into an even more super awesome girl. This lasts a lifetime, not just a semester. Be ready! Again, congrats! — Tom (CP Fall Adv 2001, Tower of Terror / Fantasmic!)

  6. I literally almost started crying reading your post. I am so excited to start my disney internship this spring! I leave February 1st and I am also a little bit nervous. This makes me feel a little bit better knowing what to look forward too.

  7. I just applied for fall 2016! I’mso scared of the interview process and what they might ask ahh! LOVE this blog post soooo much ! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Do you have an Instagram???! This was an amazing post and so informational! I’m only 16 but once I turn 18 I would love working there in IN LOVE with Disney and go there every single year! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hi there! I made it to the phone interview, and I would like to know if you could provide some tips and advice for me? I’m super nervous and don’t really know what to expect. Thank you!

    1. Hello! Sorry this response is so late. Here some of my tips:
      BREATHE. (This should go without saying but it can be nerve racking!)
      Have a piece of paper and pen ready. Write down your interviewer’s name and remember it. Write down any questions you may think of during the interview.
      Have questions ready before the interview and some talking points written/typed up. They like to know that you did your research and that you want to be as informed as possible.
      Do some research! Possible interview questions are always circulating, and make sure you research every role you expressed interest in.
      Last, but not least, SMILE! You can hear a difference when someone smiles when they’re talking vs when they aren’t, I promise.
      Best of luck!

  10. I am really interested in applying for the program, but this is my last semester for my 2 year degree and I was not sure if I was going to move on or take a semester off. I was thinking of applying for the spring 2017 program. I have been going to Disney ever since I was 4 and my room has a lot of Disney collectibles. Disney feels like a second home to me and I am struggling with whether or not I should apply. I loved what you wrote! It made me want to pack my bags and go to Florida right now. I miss it terribly every time I leave and I really would like to be a part of the magic.

  11. Hi ๐Ÿ˜€ This literally made me so excited! I am currently waiting for my phone interview for Fall 16! You sound like you had the time of your life and I really hope I get in because it sounds amazing โค Unfortunately, I did click interest in some of the roles that I didn't realize had a lot of heavy liftingโ€ฆ do you think they'll accommodate me if i talk to my interviewer about this during the interview? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Thank you!

  12. I have been looking into the Disney College Program for a couple of weeks now! I would more than likely apply for the 2017 spring season, but I am so nervous! I graduated high school in 2015 and I have been going to a community college for the past year. I live at home so being away from my family for that long really concerns me. I know at some point it’s time to grow up, so I’ve really been considering this. I’m hoping it’ll help me branch out and be more outgoing with new people. Since everyone would be in the same situation, I think that would help me. Opinions?

  13. I am interested in the DCP. I have been for a while now. But I have a question… How do I know what colleges support this program? What college did you go to?

    1. Hi, Skylar! Not every college will give you college credit, unfortunately. I went to Florida Gulf Coast University and because I was a journalism major and this was not a journalism related internship, I could not receive internship credit for it. However, I would talk to someone at your school and see if you would be eligible to receive credit.

  14. Thank you for sharing this! I just had my phone interview today and it seemed to be a bit rushed on my interviewer’s end, but the interview still went very well. Should I be concerned or do you think the interviewer was just on a time crunch?

    1. Hi Tyler! Congratulations on having your phone interview! I believe it’s best to have a positive attitude about the process. Your recruiter has to interview several applicants every day and all of the time slots are full, so they only get the 10-20 minutes with you and if they are behind schedule it’s even more stressful! I’m sure the interview went wonderfully!

  15. Thank you so much for this blog. I am a high school senior, and I want to do the DCP next January. I know what rejection feels like, but I have faith that I will be able to do this. Thank you so much for your blog and for giving me the faith that I need.

  16. Thank you SO much for writing this! It was such an enjoyable post to read. I am trying to research the Disney College Program as much as I possibly can. Your take on it is so valuable so I do appreciate this. I plan to apply for the Spring 2017 semester. I probably missed it, but what was your role? What were some responsibilities you had? Thanks!

  17. Hello, I am a senior at my high school and I am going to Stetson University in the Fall. I wanted to apply for the spring 2017 program, when does it open? I am so nervous, it’s been a dream of mid since I was little to work and be a part of Disey.

    1. Hi there! Spring applications will be open some time in mid-late August! I would suggest going to the Disney College Program website and signing up for alerts that way you know exactly when applications open!

  18. just got accepted for the fall2016 program & can’t wait!!!!!! thank you for sharing this, can’t wait to experience all the magic!

  19. Hey!! I’m only in high school, but I’m already looking forward to trying to get into the college program as soon as possible. So naturally I’ve gotten myself psyched… And have another three and a half years to wait before I can try out. Thanks for the information!!

  20. I absolutely loved reading this! I’m finishing up my second semester of college and I want to do the DCP soooo bad. My mom and I really love disney but we only get to go about once every other year. I’m just wondering, when you work there does it ever take the magic out of it? It sounds like from this blog that it definitely doesn’t haha, I’m going to apply for the Spring 2017 program! Thank you so much for writing this!

  21. Your article made me CRY.

    Yup, every word you said was true, 1985 was my year at 7 Dwarfs Village, I still keep in touch with 3 of my friends weekly (damn, we went to Union Station one night, at “Rosie O’Gradys” for “nickle beer night, to this day I don’t know how we made home, except that I had to go get my 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix off off Colonial drive the next day, and everyone chipped in (it would have cost me half a weeks pay for the cab to go get it).

    The car, on paper, held 7, 3 in the front, 4 in the back (in the ADS, and if they were two years old), well, it held 11 that night!!!

    Ahh, I live close now, but it is not the same.

    Thank you so MUCH for that trip down “memory lane”

    Woody……..cook at Colonial Harbour House, occasional monorail driver, and ONCE, “Sport Goofy”, skiing around 7 seas lagoon.

    1. Wow! It sounds like you had quite a good time on your program! I am so glad I was able to give you that trip down memory lane, and thank you so much for sharing your memories with me!

  22. Could you maybe clear up something for me? I’ve been trying to do research; are you attending a separate university while you’re living and working at the resorts/parks? Or do they have a school that you attend…? I don’t quite understand it, but I’m really interested in applying for the program.

    1. You can either take a semester off at your university (but you must be enrolled when you initially apply for the program), take classes through your university (many participants, including myself, did this through online courses) or you may take Disney courses that count for credit- but many universities do not accept these credits and there isn’t a lot of courses to choose from. Technically there is a ‘university, called Disney University, but they really don’t offer many courses that will be beneficial to you.

  23. OMG! I’m crying, your post is so emotional. I’m looking forward being at DIP, I think is not the same as the Collage Program. You know the difference? I’m very nervous because I really really want to be part of it. Is just a dream I want it so bad!!!

  24. I have a phone interview for the Disneyland college program and I’m so nervous about it, so I was surfing the web looking for reassurance and definitely found it here. Your article is so inspiring and gave me an abundance of hope and quite a few laughs as I read through everything. It also gave me the courage to really do my best and accept everything that’s thrown my way! Thank you so much for the tips–they will hopefully be put to good use! (If I get in…..fingers crossed! This is my second time applying.)

    1. I am so happy you got so much out of this post! Also, congratulations on getting a phone interview! Keep calm, breathe and smile during your interview–it makes a big difference! Let me know how it goes, and best of luck! โค

  25. Thanks for the article. I found it searching google for how many people there are in the program. I have a few questions. 1) Are there a lot of opportunities for advancement? 2) Did you get access for Disney Quest over by Pleasure Island? I assume you were in Orlando? That’s probably where I’d spend most of my days off if it’s free, and 3a) Do you still work at Disney? 3b) Do you know anyone who is working in a good-paying job at Disney that started in this program? I would appreciate an answer to these questions and I really appreciate you taking time out to engage with us new recruits. I’m in the food service part of the Spring Advantage program in Orlando. Thanks for your time.

  26. This blog is co cute and this article is so beautiful! I was recently accepted for the Spring Advantage 2017 program and I couldn’t be more excited! Thank you for vlogging your experience!!

  27. Hi, I applied and had the phone interview and everything, I just wanted to know how long it took them to let you know that you got in ๐Ÿ™‚ im super nervous considering it was around a month ago!!

    1. It took about a month for me the first time and two weeks the second time. For some, they won’t hear until the last day. There’s no way to predict when you’ll hear back, unfortunately!

  28. What a great review – I had a big lump ion my throat! My daughter is going to Orlando in January for the program from Melbourne, Australia. She is so excited and I know it will be an amazing adventure for her!

  29. hey, I know this post was a while ago but I just stumbled across it during my research int the dcp. When i saw the title i feared that this would put me off of the programme but your lovely words did quite the opposite. I cannot wait to apply! I am however, international, and i was just wondering if you knew where i could find a list of participating eligible US universities that participate in the programme because i cannot, for the life of me, find a useful list anywhere! i also noticed that t said that you must be studying an “appropriate” degree, but what does that entail? do they all have to be drama based or what are some others that are accepted? Thank you very much in advance ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. I just applied for the second time and I am EXTREMELY nervous! I have been the biggest Disney fanatic in my family since I was born. Reading this made me cry and it makes me so excited and anxious and I haven’t even been accepted! Let’s hope application number 2 is my time!

    1. I am so excited for you! I have another post on here with tips for acing your phone interview, so if you make it to that stage be sure to check that out! Iโ€™m crossing my fingers for you!!!

  31. Hi..i have a question.. I alredy live in orlando with my sister, do you know if i will be able to be in the CP and sleep at my house at night?thank you and I love you blog, make me want to apply sooo bad!!

    1. Yes! On my second college program, I lived with my best friend and two other people in a house in Davenport. I didnโ€™t want to live in CP housing the second time around. However, you do miss out on some really fun bonding experiences by not living on site. Just something to consider!

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