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What Is the Disney College Program? Is It Right for You?

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Posted by Ashley Robinson | Mar 1, 2020 3:00:00 PM

Extracurriculars

 

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The Disney College Program is a sought after paid college internship program in the U.S. Not only do you get to work for Disney, you'll also gain professional and educational experience that stands out on your resume. It's not surprising, then, that thousands of college students seek the chance to put the DCP on their resumes each year.

But, what is the Disney College Program, exactly, and how do you know if you’d be a good fit for it (and a competitive applicant)? We'll answer these questions and more for you in this article! We'll give you:

  • An overview of the Disney College Program, including who it’s for and who’s eligible, how long it lasts, and what the benefits are
  • An explanation of the three main components of the Disney College Program
  • Three tips for deciding if the program would be a good fit for you
  • A guide to the Disney College Program application process and five tips for putting together a stand-out application.

Find out all the details you need to know about the Disney College Program below!

 


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What Is the Disney College Program?

The Disney College Program (DCP) is a semester-long, paid college internship at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. 

Students who apply and are accepted to this private internship program get the chance to work in Disney parks and resorts, take part in college-level coursework, and build relationships with students from all over the world while living in company-sponsored housing.

So, what kind of college students are eligible to apply to DCP? College students who are also U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents, or studying in the U.S. under an F-1 visa are eligible to apply. All DCP applicants must be 18 years old by the time their program participation begins as well. In order to be considered, applicants must be enrolled in a college or university during the fall or spring semester prior to applying to the program. 

The program is at least one semester long, but the length of the program can range from four to seven months. Most of the time, applicants won’t find out how long their internship offer is for until they’ve been formally invited to participate in the DCP. 

There are many benefits to participating in the Disney College Program. Participants have the opportunity to network with leaders, take career and personal development classes, and develop skills like problem-solving, teamwork, customer service, and communication. 

What really makes the DCP stand out is that participants are able to fulfill an internship requirement while taking a full semester of online college courses and getting paid. Paid internships that allow time for taking classes are pretty hard to come by!

 

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Participants in the DCP will work at either Disney World or Disneyland as cast members. Many DCP cast members will have one-on-one interactions with visitors...and will help them have a magical time at the parks!  

 

The 3 Components of the Disney College Program: Living, Learning, Earning

Now that you’ve got an answer to the question, "What is the Disney College Program," let’s look more closely at the three components of the DCP program: Living, Learning, and Earning.

 

#1: Living

The "Living" component of the DCP refers to the requirement that program participants live in company-sponsored housing with people from all over the U.S. and the world. It's a lot like living in a dormitory on a college campus! 

The DCP takes care of assigning its participants to on-site housing. Participants are assigned apartments and roommates by gender, and up to eight participants may be assigned to a single apartment. While living in Disney College Program housing, participants must observe the Community Codes that are meant to ensure participants’ safety. Failure to do so can result in termination from the program. 

Program participants at both the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California must pay several fees to help cover the cost of their housing. There are a couple of one-time fees that participants must pay before starting the program, and a recurring, weekly fee to cover the cost of housing after the program begins (similar to paying rent, basically). For the sake of convenience, the weekly housing costs are deducted directly from participants’ paychecks from DCP before they receive them. 

These housing fees vary depending on which Disney resort location a participant is assigned to. Here’s a breakdown of the fees that are due from participants at both resort locations once they accept an invitation to participate: 

 

College Program Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL

Fee Type
Fee Amount
One time or recurring?
Refundable?
Program Participation Fee
$240
One-time (before beginning the program)
No
Housing Fee
$150
One-time (before beginning the program)
No
Weekly Housing Payment
Ranges from $114 to $205, depending on type and size of apartment
Recurring (weekly for the duration of the program)
No



College Program Location: Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA

Program Participation Fee
$150
One-time (before beginning the program)
No
Security Deposit
$150
One-time (before beginning the program)
Yes
Housing and Administration Fee
$640
One-time (before beginning the program)
No
Weekly Housing Payment
Ranges from $160 to $180 per week, depending on size of the apartment and max occupancy
Recurring (weekly for the duration of the program)
No



Now that you know all the fees that are due before and during the Disney College Program, it’s important to be aware that even if you’re accepted to the program, your spot won’t be officially reserved until you’ve paid the required one-time housing fees in a single payment. 

 

#2: Learning

The "Learning" piece of the DCP refers to the "uniquely Disney" course offerings and experiences available to program participants. Just like the Living component, the available learning opportunities differ between the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort. Participating in courses is a requirement of the Disney Internship Program. 

Course offerings are posted in an online course catalog through the Disney Onsite Resident Management System, or DORMS. Courses are listed by title, type, date, time, hours (as in, how many hours long the course is), and registration date. All of the course offerings are also assigned a "type." The two main course types in the DCP are "Exploring Disney" and "Career Connection."

"Exploring Disney" course offerings and experiences showcase how Disney conducts business in a variety of areas. These courses include seminars that explore different elements of the Disney business, stand-alone sessions that offer insight into different aspects of Disney's operations, and opportunities to explore the management and design of Disney's parks and resorts.  

"Career Connection" learning events are intended to guide participants in their career path development. There are three types of Career Connection classes: "Conversations With," "Career Insights," and "Career + Life Preparation." Guest speakers address the career opportunities at Disney in the "Conversations With" offerings. "Career Insights" present career possibilities based on participants’ indicated major and area of study. "Career + Life Preparation" courses are designed to help participants with the specific aspects of career readiness, like resume writing, networking, and interviewing. 

Finally, the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World also offers an optional Study Hall program. Study Hall is specifically designed to allow program participants specified time each week to complete assignments for any online courses they are taking through their college or university. (It's basically just like a study hall period you may have had in high school!) To participate in Study Hall, program participants must register online so that they will be guaranteed time off from DCP work in order to take advantage of this opportunity. 

If you want to learn more about Disney's learning opportunities, be sure to check out the FAQs on the "Learning" page of the DCP website

 

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Not only will you get experience and course credit as part of the DCP, you'll also earn some extra cash, too!

 

#3: Earning

The final component of the Disney College Program is "Earning." Since The Disney College Program is a paid internship, participants receive an hourly wage for the work they do in the Disney parks and resorts. 

Candidates for the program are notified of the exact pay rate they will receive when extended an offer to join the program, but according to the program’s application webpage, this wage will vary between $12-$15 per hour depending on the role a participant is offered. 

DCP participants may be assigned to work in Operations, Entertainment, Lodging, Food & Beverage, Retail/Sales, or Recreation. While working in one of these areas, participants are referred to as "cast members," and will be dedicating their time to serving parks and resorts guests and ensuring they have a magical experience. 

The key to having a good experience while working in the program is flexibility. Participants may be asked to work either indoors, outdoors, or both. They must have full work availability, because participants could be assigned a full-time or part-time work schedule, and may be asked to work during the day, evening (even after midnight!), weekends, and holidays. If you're not comfortable having a flexible or rotating work schedule, then the DCP program may not be the best fit for you. 

When applying to the program, applicants have the chance to indicate a specific role that they are interested in playing while working in the parks and resorts, but are not guaranteed to be assigned to this role. No matter the specific position offered to an applicant, all program participants get the chance to work on their communication and problem-solving skills and build their confidence and self-reliance through their jobs. 

 

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Just because Disney is the "most magical place on Earth" doesn't mean it's the right place for you. Check out our tips for deciding whether you should apply for the DCP. 

 

3 Tips to Decide If the Disney College Program Is Right for You

You’ve probably gathered that the Disney College Program is a substantial commitment, so how do you know if this internship program would work out well for you? Check out our three tips to help you decide below!

 

Tip 1: Consider the Workload

Lots of internships follow the traditional 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday work schedule, but not the Disney College Program. DCP participants must be available to work in the evenings (sometimes really late!), on weekends, and even over the holidays. But you won’t know when you’ll be working until you actually get to the internship, which can feel a bit unpredictable.

Keep in mind that on top of a demanding work schedule, the Disney College Program also expects you to be enrolled in courses through your university while you’re completing their onsite internship. Add the requirement to attend courses offered by the DCP itself to that and you’ve got a pretty full plate.

However, past DCP participants have found the program to be immensely rewarding, despite the demanding schedule. DCP alumnus Elizabeth said that, for her:

"The College Program has been quite the roller coaster. It has been full of hard and long days, but it has also been filled with so many magical moments. Working all day, five days a week is a new experience for me — and it has been challenging — but seeing the smile on the faces and hearing the laughs of the kids that I work with makes everything I do worth it."

Before you apply to the DCP program, it's important for you to really assess what you want out of an internship. If you're up for the challenge of a demanding work schedule, then you'll have a better DCP experience! 

 

Tip 2: Consider the Geography

For some applicants, Florida or California (or both!) might be really far away from home. The Disney College Program expects you to spend anywhere from three to seven months onsite for the internship, which can be a long time to be away from family, friends, and familiar surroundings.

DCP alumnus Brien advises potential applicants to really think about whether they’re up for being so far from home, especially applicants from other countries. Brien says: 

"Are you capable of being by yourself in a new place? Once you’ve come so far, it might not be very easy to connect with your parents or loved ones back home. There’s a huge time difference. If you’re able to live independently, I think this program is very brilliant."

If you’re up for testing out your self-sufficiency and independence a few states (or an entire ocean) away from home, then the Disney College Program might be worth a shot!

 

Tip 3: Think About Your Future

One of the major draws of the Disney College Program is the fact that it offers special courses that participants can take to help them learn how to pursue their dream career. But it’s important to recognize that almost half of DCP course offerings are Disney-specific: they’re all about the history of the Walt Disney Company and how the business is run. 

Many applicants may be excited by the idea of getting an inside look at one of the most successful businesses in the world, but others might want to pursue an internship that focuses more specifically on their future career field. Whatever you decide, knowing that this internship is very much focused on Disney itself is crucial from the get-go.

 

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The Disney College Program is really competitive, so be sure you start the application process as soon as possible. 

 

Guide to the Disney College Program Application Process

If you decide the Disney College Program is worth a shot, you’ll need to work on your application. The application process for the Disney College Program is completed online, but may also include a series of interviews.

In order to be eligible for the Disney College Program, applicants must meet the following requirements: 

  • Be currently enrolled and taking classes at an accredited program or institution and have completed at least one semester OR have graduated within the past 12 months
  • Meet any university-specific requirements for admission, if applicable 
  • Be at least 18 years old or older by the program’s start date
  • Be a U.S. citizen, a legal resident, or possess an unrestricted work authorization.

There are a few additional caveats to eligibility. For example, if you've just graduated high school and have college credit from a dual enrollment program, you're not eligible for the DCP (yet!). For more information on eligibility exceptions, check out the DCP application home page

If you're eligible to apply, you can complete the online application to the Disney College Program. Applicants must provide their education history, work experience, college academic calendar, and work availability. Applicants must also explain why they're applying to the DCP, indicate which roles they are interested in applying for, and indicate which park location they are applying for (Orlando, California, or both).

The Disney College Program doesn’t require that applicants submit a formal resume or cover letter at any point in the application process. However, there is an interview process that applicants may be asked to complete. There’s no consistent interview schedule, so you'll have to be patient to see if you've advanced to the next round of the application process. 

When your application is due depends on what session you're applying for. These dates are updated throughout the year, so be sure to check the Disney College Program website for specifics. If you're trying to plan ahead, you should assume that the deadline for the application is at least three months before the program's start date

The deadlines for notifying applicants of the final decision about their application varies for each session as well. Acceptance decisions are made and notifications are sent to applicants on an individualized basis--there isn’t a set notification day or period. Applicants are advised to frequently check their email and their Disney College Program dashboard for notification of the decision about their application during the two to three months following their application submission. 

Many applicants are also curious about the Disney College Program acceptance rate. Thousands apply to DCP every year, but less than 20% of applicants are accepted. That means it’s important to give your application and interview your all, which we’ll give you some tips for next!

 

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Follow our expert tips to make sure your DCP application stands out from the crowd!

 

5 Tips for a Stellar Disney College Program Application

Since the Disney College Program is very competitive, your application has to stand out from the crowd. Check out our top five tips for making sure your DCP application is the best it can be!

 

Tip 1: Make Sure You Meet Your School’s Criteria

We already mentioned that some colleges may have specific eligibility criteria for applying to the DCP. For instance, some schools may require you to have completed a certain number of course hours before you're able to 

To save yourself time and spare yourself heartache, it’s important to talk to your academic advisor to find out what these eligibility criteria are and that you meet them before you submit your DCP app. Keep in mind that not all schools have additional application requirements, nor are the additional eligibility requirements the same across schools. 

The moral of the story is that if you're interested in applying for the DCP, find out your school’s eligibility criteria right away. That way, you’ll be able to do everything you can to make sure you meet the criteria in preparation for applying.

 

Tip 2: Know Your DCP "Why" 

The DCP application asks you to explain what factors are important to your decision to apply to the program. You'll select these three things from a list provided as part of the DCP application. The reasons you select will say something about who you are and what kind of employee you might be while working for Disney, so you’ll want to really think about which reasons are the most authentic for you. 

You can also use your three "whys" to help prepare for the DCP interview process, if you're asked to complete one. Chances are, DCP interviewers will ask you to elaborate on the reasons you selected on your DCP application. If you go into an interview having really thought through your reasons for seeking a DCP internship, you'll come across as honest, earnest, and authentic. 

 

Tip 3: Choose the Right Roles for You

The DCP app also asks applicants to select their preferred "Roles" on the DCP application. These roles are divided up into different categories based on the kind of work that is done at the parks and resorts, including a list of "high need" roles. 

When filling out this part of the application, you definitely want to select roles that you would actually be willing to work in as an intern at DCP. Some applicants might feel that they should select roles from the list of "high need" positions, thinking that this will increase their chances of getting accepted. 

But saying what you think the DCP wants to hear won’t necessarily help you get accepted to the program. Instead, it’s more important to select roles you’d really be passionate about serving in. Remember: there's also an interview portion of the application. Chances are that interviewers will realize pretty quickly if you've chosen roles that are actually a good fit for your interests and skills. 

 

Tip 4: Be Flexible

It’s important to approach the entire Disney College Program application process with an open mind. Of course, you’ll be asked to select your preferences for internship location, role, and housing on the application, but no applicant is guaranteed to be offered their first choice of anything. 

If you're open-minded about working in a role or at a location that wasn’t your first choice, it’s possible the interviewers will be impressed by your adaptability and deem you worthy of a DCP internship! Besides, working in the parks and resorts can be a little chaotic at times. If you do get the internship, you’ll need to be flexible anyway—your work and course schedules will probably end up being a bit unusual!

 

Tip 5: Get Ready to Interview

You already know that some applicants are invited to interview if the DCP would like for them to move forward in the application process. In fact, there are a couple of interviews that are a part of the process—a web interview and, if that goes well, a follow up phone interview.

If you make it to the interview steps of the process, you want to be really prepared to shine. This will be your chance to show your interviewers the person behind the application, so answering some practice interview questions and thinking through some responses is a great way to prepare for the interview process. Preparation is key to a successful interview process! 

If this is your first big interview, don't worry: we can help! This article gives you some tips for preparing for the interview process, and this article has some great potential questions that you can practice to get ready for the big day

 

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What's Next? 

Unfortunately, the Disney College Program is only available for college students. If you're a high schooler looking for an internship, check out this list of opportunities instead. You may also consider applying to a pre-college summer program, which is specifically designed to help high school students learn more about their potential future careers.

The Disney College Program is great, but you aren't guaranteed to land a role that's directly connected to your future career field. If you're looking for more career-specific opportunities to help you transition from college into the workforce, why not consider job shadowing instead? This article will teach you everything you need to know about the job shadowing process and give you some great tips for finding an opportunity near you.

Like we mentioned earlier, the interview portion of the DCP application can be pretty intimidating. Along with the resources we've included above, be sure to check out this guide that lists 100 common interview questions (and this guide that walks you through interview questions and talks about what great answers look like). 

 

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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.



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