Total Nerd

What It's Like To Be Enrolled In The Disney College Program  

Jonathan H. Kantor
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"Magic Kingdom" is the name of one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World in Florida, and an informal name for Disneyland in California, but it takes more than sorcery to bring smiles to the faces of guests at these famed amusement spots. Instead, thousands of employees working behind the scenes help make an excursion to the "happiest place(s) on Earth" worthwhile. You might not know that some of those workers enroll in a special Disney College to work at the parks.

What is the Disney College Program? It's not a typical four-year institute of higher learning, and DCP is separate from the training regular employees go through. Instead, it's a five- to seven-month internship program for a select number of students to provide them with professional experience working in one of the two parks. Some aspects of the highly competitive Disney College Program are similar to college: Students pay costs, live in dorm-like housing, and can earn college credits. But not many universities offer a Disney "Traditions" class. And the program is not without controversy, because it provides the parks with cheap labor.

While it's difficult to know much about the program unless you've gone through it yourself, some former participants have revealed interesting tidbits of information. Their accounts, and the program's own guidelines, offer a glimpse into the Disney College Program experience.

 

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Participants Are Provided With Housing In Private Apartments

Housing for the program is available so attendees can experience living near the park grounds. In many ways, the housing units are comparable to college dorms, which include a number of options. Depending on the size of the room, attendees can expect to pay from $103 to $200 each week for housing, which is deducted from their paychecks.

Strict Community Codes regulate how people conduct themselves in the apartments. These include rules prohibiting overnight guests at any time on the premises; no smoking in the apartments, courtyards or hallways; and noise policies. Participants are allowed to drink alcohol, but only in pre-authorized rooms, which makes some rooms "wet" and others "dry."

Participants Usually Pick Their Roommates Ahead Of Time Through Facebook Groups

Similar to college campuses, the Disney College Program offers Facebook groups that pop up each semester where new cast members can find like-minded roommates.

On the first day, cast members receive keys to their apartments and take a tour of the locations where they will be working, living, and learning.

If Participants Are Even One Minute Late To The 'Traditions' Class, The Door Is Closed And They Can’t Enter

The Disney Traditions class (also known as a new hire orientation class) is one of the most important classes participants must attend. If they show up late, all they'll see is a closed door. The class, held on the first day of work, covers the history and heritage of the Walt Disney Company. Approximately four hours long, it's taught by current cast members handpicked from different locations across the park.

The rules for attendance are spelled out on the website, and the first one is: "Make a good impression by being on time! If you are even a minute late, the door will close and you will not be admitted to the class."

Before coming to the class, attendees need to review a "Disney Traditions" paper they receive at check-in.

Participants Can’t Switch Out Their Roles Once They’re Assigned At The Start Of The Program

Because employees are known as cast members, their specific jobs are called "roles." Although regular employees can switch roles, Disney College Program cast members can't make any changes once their role is assigned at the beginning of the program. 

This rule is said to be laid out explicitly during the initial phone interview, and each applicant lists three roles they would like, ranked from lowest to highest preference. This means participants may not get the role they want, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Exceptions aren't offered simply because giving one person an exception means they would have to open the floodgates for everyone who wants one role over another.