There are a lot of things you won’t be told when you set out to do the Disney College Program. (In fact, I’ve written a post about it. Feel free to check it out here.)
In addition to the things you won’t be told to expect from your program, you may also not be told about the do’s and don’ts of your program. No, I’m not talking about the rules you have to follow in order to not get terminated or the forever long lecture you’ll get about the do’s and don’ts of lifting a box. (If you think I’m kidding, just ask any friend who has ever had to go through Welcome to Operations. They’ll tell you.)
I’m talking about the hidden do’s and don’ts, the ones I have come up with to ensure that you make the most out of your time while in the most magical (or happiest) place on earth.
And so, without further ado, here are the do’s and don’ts of the Disney College Program:
- DO be optimistic. It’s natural to feel nervous and even overwhelmed during the first few weeks of your program, but don’t let those feelings get the best of you or make you feel like the rest of your program is doomed to be a failure. YOU GOT THIS.
(Warning: You will tear up when you see the Casting building)
2. DON’T get discouraged. Like I said, the first few weeks will be overwhelming, and you may mess up a few times as you’re starting to get the hang of things. Everyone makes mistakes and I promise it will get easier.
3. DO go to the parks as soon as you gain access. My roommates and I went to Epcot the first night we all had off together after getting our blue ID’s and we were SO excited. We only spent a few hours there, but we got to watch Illuminations and we even stopped at Beaches and Cream and took on the Kitchen Sink Challenge! (HIGHLY recommend.)
(Side note: We didn’t finish all of it.
Kitchen Sink: 1 Us: 0)
4. DON’T just go to Disney parks. I love Disney as much as the next person, probably even more, but some of my favorite memories were made elsewhere in Orlando! My friends and I took beach trips and went to Universal plenty of times. Especially if you’re from out of state, take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given and go explore!
(Clearwater Beach is gorgeous. It’s too bad it rained during our trip, though.)
5. DO take advantage of discounts. You get discounts on merchandise, resorts, dining and other Disney experiences. You also get discounts throughout Orlando at various stores, restaurants and other things. Use these discounts to help make your time even more memorable. Try out a new restaurant; buy a piece of merchandise to commemorate your program; go on a special behind the scenes tour.
(Sci Fi in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is amazing, and who wouldn’t want to have a breakfast prepared by the boss himself at Chef Mickey’s?)
6. DON’T close yourself off. You will meet and become friends with some of the best people ever…but only if you open yourself up. I was extremely shy before my program started, but I was friendly and outgoing at work, and in general, and I made new best friends that hold such a special and dear place in my heart. (But they also break it on a daily basis because the majority of them are scattered across the country and I miss them dearly.)
(These ladies made my program 100x better than it would’ve been without them.)
7. DO take a lot of pictures. Trust me, you’re going to want to torture yourself by looking at photos from your program. It’ll crush your soul, but it’ll also make you feel a little closer to home.
8. DON’T be afraid to do something new. If you want to pick up a shift in Magic Kingdom, do it. If you want to try a restaurant with cuisine you’ve never had, do it. The sky is the limit and you should aim to do something new as many times as possible on your program.
(I ate at Restaurant Marrakesh in the Moroccan Pavilion at Epcot (which I never would have done before) and it was DELICIOUS.)
9. DO explore the resorts. The parks are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but the Walt Disney World Resort has a lot to offer. I personally love to resort hop; the resorts are beautiful and offer their own set of activities that come packed with a ton of Disney magic. The easiest resort hopping route is to take the monorail around the Magic Kingdom resorts- The Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
(The Grand Floridian is S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G)
10. DON’T call out frequently. Not only does it reflect poorly on you if you are constantly calling out of your shifts, but your paychecks will be smaller and you will struggle to pay for rent.
11. DO take time for yourself. Your schedule can be brutal and you may find yourself burnt out. Remember that you can always give shifts away or ask for an ADO (authorized day off). You won’t be getting the most out of your program if you’re too worn out to enjoy it.
12. DON’T spend all of your money. It is entirely too easy to go broke on your program. If you learn how to save early on and don’t spend too much on things you really don’t need, you’ll find yourself walking away with some extra cash. It’s okay to splurge every so often, but just make sure you’re not spending every penny you have.
13. DO go to housing events. You may find yourself unlucky like me and unable to attend many events because of a conflicting work schedule. However, try to make it to at least a few because they really are super fun. Try to make it to Starlight Splash if you’re on the spring program or to the formal if you’re on the fall program. Oh, and definitely go to your service celebration toward the end of your program!
(Starlit Splash is the BEST and nothing beats celebrating your program with a few of your closest friends!)
14. DON’T let peer pressure get the best of you. You have to remember that you are still a college student among other college students, even if you aren’t on a traditional campus. If you don’t want to do something, just say no. Don’t be afraid to remove yourself from any situation that you feel uncomfortable in. Also, don’t feel like you need to do something or act a certain way to impress people; your real friends will love and accept you for who are, I promise.
15. DO call your family/stay in touch with friends back home. If your friends and family can’t visit you, be sure to keep in contact with them. They miss you just as much as you miss them, if not more. Call them up and let them know you’re doing okay- it makes a big difference.
(My family lives close enough that they were able to come visit me on my program and my sister really missed me.)
16. DON’T take this experience for granted.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller
You are one of the lucky few (thousand) that get to embark on this journey and you should enjoy every single minute of it. Your program will move incredibly fast and before you know it, you’re packing up your things and getting your last schedule for work ever. Don’t let your program pass you by. Do as much as you can in the small amount of time you have with the people who mean the most to you. Stay up late, wake up early, plan trips, be spontaneous, do something you’ve never done, do an old favorite a million times, make memories and never look back.
Don’t be afraid; do be curious. After all, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~ Walt Disney