The Disney College Program: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I don’t know about you, but growing up I had very high expectations in life thanks to Disney movies. Like many of my friends, Disney was a big part of my life as a child. I was one of those kids who would recite the entire movie from start to finish, which is why I didn’t hesitate on applying for the Disney College Program. For me the idea of working for the mouse and having the chance to explore the parks at any given moment seemed like promise land to me.  

I’ve had the opportunity to do the DCP twice and both times I’ve had wonderful experiences and met so many amazing people; working both in a park (shoutout to all my DHS peeps), and working in a resort. Not that I’m an expert when it comes to the program, but I always have a lot of people ask me about how it works, if I liked it, if I think it’s worth it, and so on. Which is why I’ve decided to share a little bit about it in a post.

Before I go into the endless rant that always goes down when I talk about the DCP, I should probably explain what it is to those that have never heard of it.

The Disney College Program is a paid internship in Walt Disney World Florida and Disneyland California. Basically you spend between 5 to 7 months working at either a resort or a park. The way they sell it to you is that it’s a living, learning and earning experience. If your college accepts any of the classes they offer, you can take them so you don’t necessarily waist time while at Disney. I for instance, on my first program took two Disney classes and two classes with my University, that way I didn’t get behind. As far as living, if you want to experience CP housing, they have four different complexes in which you can stay with friends if you know anyone (that are your same sex) doing the programs and you fill out the housing application in time.

There are so many ways I could go into it, but what I decided is to just divide it in what I feel are the good, bad and ugly things off of the program, in my opinion.

The Good

One of the things that stand out for me the most form the DCP is one hundred and ten percent all the incredible friends I made and the insane amount of diversity you submerge yourself into.  My co-workers in both programs were more like a family to me; we spent so much time together, obviously during work and after work as well. I also got the chance to work with people from all over the world and learn about their lives at home and even try some of their food; it’s safe to say I have a couch to sleep in all over the world.

Four Parks in one day for my birthday. Couldn't feel my legs the next day at work.
As a cast member you are given pretty much free range to turn a bad situation into an unforgettable one, of making any celebration extra special. Those are known as Magical Moments, which can range from a free Premium Mickey Bar to a free t-shirt. You can definitely google “Magical Moments” and a ton of stories will pop up and some will bring tears to your eyes. For me nothing was more satisfying than creating Magical Moments. Sometimes you can take your job and the power that you have for granted because you might be tired or had a bad experience with another guest, but for me, the memories that stand out the most are the faces of the people I sprinkled a bit more magic into.

The best part hands down are all the perks that you get as a cast member. Obviously free entrance to the parks is the biggest perk you get, but you also get resort discounts, merchandise discounts and even discounts in certain food locations. If I were to tell you the amount of things I purchased with my employee discount I would be here for hours, the holiday discount is for sure your best friend.  You also get extra special backstage tours that not everyone can do, whether it’s because they are super expensive of simply because they don’t offer them for the general public. During my first program I didn’t get the chance to experience backstage tours because in my location it was more like a lottery; so when I got to my location during my second program and I saw you could sign up for the tours you wanted I took advantage of it. I had the chance to see how the show Fantasmic! (my favorite Disney show in the entire world) is brought to life, the ins and outs of the production and even got to stand where my girl Pocahontas stands in the mountain and got to stand inside Steamboat Willie’s boat. I also did a complete tour of Tower of Terror and a Segway tour of Fort Wilderness. Those experiences are some of the things I will treasure for the rest of my life.

As an extra perk for being a Concierge, because we are the ones that pretty much help people plan their day, I got a lot of complimentary passes. Like a free pass for Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, amongst others.

The Bad

The thing you all might care about the most, the money. Most jobs at Disney are minimum wage; so don’t go into the Program thinking you are going to make loads of money, because you are not going to. To be frank, it’s a wage you can survive on, that’s for sure. That is coming from someone that got paid way more on her second CP that on her first one.

One of the hardest things for me the second time around was guest interaction. The reason being that working at a park the first time around I got to be around happy and excited people all the time. I obviously had to deal with pissed off guests, but those interactions were minimum. Whereas working at a resort it’s the complete opposite. You get to hear all of their complaints, every single thing that went wrong throughout the day, and somehow, it’s your job to fix it. I ended up loving my job, because I learned how to deal with those people and I loved seeing how I could turn their vacations around. Those first weeks though, were the hardest weeks off of my Program.

The Ugly

Coming up with things to add in here was quite hard for me to be completely honest. I had such an amazing time during my programs that anything bad was outweighed by the good, let alone find anything I considered horrible.

If I had to pick something “horrible” it would probably be the hours for sure. You are working all the time; you work pretty much every day for the longest time. That however is something that I knew going into the College Program, something that I mentally prepared myself for. Some people however go into it thinking that they are going to have all the time in the world to just hang out. When I worked at Hollywood Studios during the holidays I easily worked twelve hour shifts every other day. You are there to work, and work you will. You obviously get time to explore and have fun, but your number one priority time wise is your job.

Last but definitely not least, difficult guests. That however is the epitome of any guest service job. You can get the most amazing people and five minutes later get a family that pretty much feels like was sent from hell. You will constantly hear the phrase “you ruined my vacation” but you know, you become immune to it after the 11th time in a day.

All in all, doing the Disney College Program was one of the best decisions of my life; I loved it so much I did it twice. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that everyone loves it, because that’s a lie. I’ve met people that hated every minute of it, and people that left their programs two weeks into it because it was not for them. I’ve met way more people that loved every second of it. If you are thinking about it and have the chance, do it, you will not regret it.

You never know, being an Alumni has its perks too. 

Yes, that is an actual Association you can join.
Free Mickey Bars happened during that Homecoming, and there is nothing better. 

Remember kids, adventure is out there.

With enough pixie dust to fly to Neverland,

             - Michelle

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