It’s rare that I write personal posts on my blog, and rarer that one would take me over 3 months to write. The thing is, the Disney College Program has become one of the most amazing and profound experiences in my life. How could I write about such an amazing experience that most people would never truly understand? And even if I tried, how could I condense 9 months of magic and memories into just 1686 words, a handful of photos, and 2 minutes and 51 seconds of video?
Needless to say, it wasn’t easy.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored or endorsed by The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney World resort, or the Disney College Program. All views and opinions are my own.
The Start of My Disney Journey
My Disney journey started when I was 14 years old. I had just returned home from my first Disney trip in over 12 years and had quickly learned that Disney was so much more than “just a theme park”. My head swarmed with everything I had seen and done over the past week, already feeling nostalgic. It was that trip that fueled my love for design, which led me to spend hours scouring the internet for Disney’s design secrets and stories; there was plenty to be told.
As I scoured the internet for information, I read about Disney’s building techniques, the backstories of each ride, character, and themed “land”, and the people who helped make the parks what they are, the Imagineers and Cast Members.
Yet as I read these websites, it wasn’t until I reached a small, seemingly insignificant blog that mentioned 3 words I had never heard before: Disney College Program.
Even though I had no clue what these words meant, they fascinated me. I soon found myself deep into research, hopping from website to website as I sought out what this program was.
This was the beginning of my Disney journey.
The Basics of the Disney College Program
I quickly discovered that the Disney College Program is a unique internship experience at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland resort, where current college students (or students who have graduated within the past year) work full-time in a variety of industries across the parks and resorts.
Jobs in the Disney College Program range anywhere from running the attractions, selling merchandise, working the front desk at the resorts, and so much more.
In addition to working in the parks and resorts, these students also have the opportunity to take Disney classes and participate in networking events; many colleges even offer college credit just for participation in the program.
Even better, the Disney College Program could pave the way towards the Disney Professional Internships, such as working in Guest Relations, in Imagineering, and more.
As I read all of this, I immediately knew that the Disney College Program was something I wanted to do.
The Disney College Program Application Process
It felt like a lifetime, but fast-forward 6 years later and I finally did something I had been dreaming of since I was 14 years old: I hit “Apply”.
My heart pounded as the screen changed and an application filled the screen. This was the moment I had been waiting years for. I filled out the application, detailing my work history and school information, selected the roles I was interested in, and submitted it.
The next step was a Web-Based Interview (WBI), essentially a timed questionnaire. Receiving an invitation to complete the WBI isn’t immediate or guaranteed, but I received my invitation for it within a few hours of submitting my application.
Even though I had up to 3 days to complete the WBI, I’ll admit that I was too nervous to wait. I quickly started it and passed it within an hour.
The next step was the phone interview. Without a doubt, this was the most nerve-wracking part of the application process. I spent hours preparing for it and even did a mock interview over the phone with one of my friends. Once I finished my phone interview, I was surprised to see that it had only taken 10 minutes.
Suddenly, all of the studying and research I had spent 6 years doing stopped. There was nothing for me to do except wait.
The Acceptance Email
The next step in the application process was to receive an email that would put me into 1 of 3 categories: Accepted, Denied, or Waitlisted. Needless to say, I was terrified of getting the later two.
As the recruiters hinted at the first 2 “waves” of acceptances (one for Fall Advantage and one for Fall), I found my heart jumping with each email that arrived in my inbox, wondering if it was the one I had been waiting on for 6 years, the email that would change my life forever. Each time I was disappointed.
Then it finally happened: I received my acceptance email.
To be honest, that moment still feels frozen in time, such a pivotal event in my life that I can remember every detail. Class had just ended (a field trip to a carpet factory) and I was sitting in my car, checking my phone’s notifications before driving home.
I clearly remember staring at the email notification on my screen, wondering if it was the fateful email I had been waiting for; I shook off the thought. I had spent so much time jumping at every email that arrived in my inbox, wondering if it could be “the one”. But if I was completely honest with myself, I knew that it could be weeks before I heard anything back on my application. There was no point in getting worked up about this one too.
I clicked it.
The email opened up and I stared at it in awe, the word “Congratulations” written across the top and the iconic purple and gold banner stretching across the top of the email. It seemed like time had stopped and I had forgotten how to breathe. I was going to be a Cast Member! The dream I had been pursuing for 6 years was finally coming true.
Preparing for My Disney College Program
In the months leading up to my Disney College Program (Fall 2018), there was a lot to be done. Besides notifying my school and professors that I planned to participate in the program (and fill out forms to get college credit for it), I spent a lot of my time researching the apartment complexes, finding roommates, creating roommate gifts, and guessing at my possible work location.
That’s one of the unique elements of the Disney College Program: Even though I had known my role (Attractions) for months, I wouldn’t learn my actual location until a mere week before my program would begin.
With so many different roles within attractions, it felt like the possibilities were endless. I could be a skipper on the world-famous Jungle Cruise, a bellhop at the Tower of Terror, or even a Park Greeter, the person who greets Guests and scans the tickets/MagicBands at the front of the parks. The possibilities seemed endless and I couldn’t wait to find out.
A week before the start of my program, I finally received my itinerary. It detailed where I would be living, the dates and times for my Casting and Traditions, and (most importantly) where I would be working.
My heart raced as I searched the document, trying to find it. Finally, my eyes landed on the words “Park Greeter–Epcot”. I couldn’t believe my luck. Park Greeter was one of the top 5 attractions roles I had been hoping for! Plus, as an Interior Design student, a field driven by technology, innovation, and creativity, it felt only right that I had been placed at Epcot. It felt like I had been given the perfect role and location.
A few days later, my car was packed and I was on my way to Florida to help make my dreams and the Disney magic real.
My Disney College Program Experience
No words could fully describe my Disney College Program experience, but I can certainly try: amazing, life-changing, and brilliant.
But most of all, it was magical.
After all, I was a Cast Member. Every day, I had the opportunity to work at my favorite park alongside some of the most amazing Cast Members I’ve ever met. Each day I got to greet Guests to Epcot with my favorite Disney icon–Spaceship Earth–behind me. I was living the dream.
When I wasn’t at work, I was playing in the parks. I lost track of how many times I met Donald Duck, the number of times I rode on Jungle Cruise, and the number of photos I took on my program. I loved it so much that I didn’t want to leave, so I extended my program until May. After all, how could I leave when it felt like I had just gotten there?
But besides the rides, characters, college credit, Disney classes, and even the networking opportunities I got to partake in, it’s thanks to the Disney College Program that I met such amazing friends from across the world. It’s thanks to the Disney College Program that I’m going back to college with a clearer sense of my educational and career goals. And most of all, it’s thanks to the Disney College Program that I had the opportunity to pursue my dream of working for Disney.
But was it what I expected it to be? No…it was so much more. Photos, blog posts, or even videos could not come close to communicating the amazing impact the Disney College Program had on me.
My Final Thoughts on My DCP
My Disney College Program was hands-down one of the best experiences of my life. So many incredible memories, lessons, and friends have come from it and it’s hard to think where I’d be or what I’d be doing if I hadn’t pursued that dream.
So if you’re thinking about doing the Disney College Program, do it. The DCP has had such a life-long impact on every person I know, with so many friends, memories and opportunities coming from it. You never know what it can do for you, too.