What to Do Before You Apply to the Disney College Program

Credit: Disney

Applications are opening soon for the next season of the Disney College Program, and college students around the country are getting ready for their chance to be considered for this magical internship opportunity. Applying for the Disney College Program is an exciting (and at times stressful) experience in itself, but as an alumna of the program myself, I wanted to share some things you should absolutely do before you fill out the application and head to Florida to “live, learn, and earn” at Disney parks.

(As of this writing, on January 22, 2022, Disney International Programs have not been restarted yet, so these tips apply only to the traditional Disney College Program.)

Find Out How the Program Works With Your College

If you would be participating in the Disney College Program after graduation, you can skip this point. If not, however, the Disney College Program is something you definitely need to discuss and confirm what the plan would be if you are accepted with your college.

When I applied for my first Disney College Program, I knew my school did not give credit for it as an internship. I thought this was fine because I’d just take more classes the semester I came back, or over the summer, and I’d be all caught up while still spending half of my sophomore year at Walt Disney World.

Disney College Program

Credit: Disney

I applied, got accepted, told my advisor about the program, and was directed to the financial aid office to triple check on something I had not even considered- The terms of my scholarship. Without taking classes or getting credit for an internship for a semester, I would have been breaking the terms of my scholarship that allowed me to afford to go to my college in the first place.

With no way to budge on that, I was forced to decline my offer from Disney. So, speaking from personal experience, sort out the plan with your college before you apply to save the emotional highs and lows of the application process.

Consider the Costs of the Program

Depending on your field or major, the Disney College Program (DCP) is probably a better internship financially than some others. (For me, as a history major hoping to get into historic preservation, this was one of the only internships I applied to in other parts of the country that provided housing and paid students for their work. For other fields, I’m told the costs/payment system of the DCP is less enticing.)

Disney College Program

Credit: Disney

Regardless of your opinions on the cost of the program, the reality is that you need to ensure the financial side of the DCP is doable for you, and this is definitely something you’ll want to figure out before you are too far along in the application process.

Before even looking at the cost of the program, I recommend looking at what you currently have for bills. If you can knock out any of those bills before you go, you’ll be better off, but if you can get a number in your head for what you currently pay each month, that will help you budget.

Take that number, we’ll say X, for monthly bills, and add onto it the cost of housing at Flamingo Crossings which runs $175 to $235 per week depending on your apartment type and roommate situation. (The cost of housing does automatically come out of your paycheck, but if you are paying other bills you will still need to make sure this is doable.)

Credit: Disney

If you are bringing a car, be sure that car payments and an estimate for gas are included in X. If you are not bringing a car, you can save some money by using the free bus transportation. Then add in an estimate for the cost of weekly groceries/toiletries (Y), add this up with X and the $235 to be on the safe side, and subtract this number from what you would make working each week: $14/hour (some roles are slightly more but for estimation purposes) x 30 (minimum of hours worked) – $235 – X – Y.  According to the math, if you live in the most expensive housing option, you would be left with $185/week assuming you work the bare minimum for hours (which is unlikely, but again for estimation purposes).

If somewhere in the neighborhood of $185/week is not enough for your current bills, and groceries, you may want to consider putting off the program for another semester to give yourself time to save more money at home before you go or see what bills could be lessened (I paused all of my subscriptions for my CP, my gym membership, Netflix, Spotify, etc…and it really did add up!)

Credit: Disney

It is also worth noting that this breakdown only accounts for your weekly budget. There is a $415-435 acceptance fee associated with the program that must be done in one payment on a credit or debit card when you accept the offer (it covers your first two weeks of rent and housing events), and you will also need to consider the cost of travel to and from Orlando. When I arrived for my program, I spent about $400 on my airfare from Boston with two checked bags, both over the weight limit, and half of a night’s stay in a hotel on I-Drive before we checked in with my future roommate.

I know the math here can sound a bit depressing, but CPs sometimes self-term (end/quit) their programs because the financial situation becomes too difficult, and while budgeting and saving can’t be enough for everyone depending on other bills, if this can help you have a better time on your CP, I highly recommend working on it before you apply.

Work on your resume

This is a given, but having your resume buttoned up and ready to go before you apply will help your chances of moving along in the process. DCP recruiters focus on work experience and work-related tasks as they relate to Disney’s Five Keys to a Great Guest Experience, which are Safety, Courtesy, Show, Efficiency, and Inclusion.

Disney College Program

Credit: Disney

As you write out your job description to prepare for the application, consider ways that you can show you’ve demonstrated the Keys. Note that you do not need paid work experience on your application to apply, volunteer experience works, too.

Review available roles for the program

Going over the potential roles you could be hired for is important to spend some time doing because you will be considered for every role you check off on the application. If you are positive you do not want a certain role, do not apply for it, even if you mark it as “low” interest, because you will still be considered for that role and if you are unhappy with it it is incredibly difficult and often impossible to change it.

Disney College Program

Credit: Disney

Since the reopening of the Walt Disney World Resort, some roles on the DCP have still been unavailable, and we believe this will be the case for this upcoming season and potentially seasons going forward. So far, entertainment roles, transportation (which in the past has included boat transportation plus greeters for monorails and buses), vacation planning, and more have not been included on the application.

Available roles will definitely include Attractions (which includes Parking), Custodial, Quick-Service Food & Beverage, Merchandise, and more. Be sure to review each role carefully before deciding if you will mark that you have interest in it on your application.

The Disney College Program is an exciting opportunity, and we are glad to see it back at the Walt Disney World Resort. We wish you the best of luck in applying for the program, and are crossing our fingers that applications drop soon!

Have more questions about the Disney College Program? Check out my FAQ!

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."

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