We’d like to introduce you to a new column, Kevin In Wonderland. In these articles, you’ll follow Kevin on his journey from civilian to magic maker in Disney’s College Program.

Hello, and welcome to my dream.  I’m Kevin, a member of the Disney College Program for the fall semester of 2012 in Orlando, Florida. I know from personal experience how unsure it can be starting the program, because it’s something completely new.  So, after I was accepted, I wanted to share my experiences so others would know what it’s like, and perhaps try the program for themselves.  I hope you’ll enjoy my journey as much as I’m enjoying being on it.

Kevin in Cars Land

First, a little bit about me: I’m 19 years old and studying Architecture at the University of Arizona.  I’ve wanted to be in the theme park industry since I was ten years old.  I own a Premium season pass to Disneyland and go at least twice a month (when I can).  I was a part of my high school’s improv team, the choir and I was even president of the drama club.  I enjoy the experience of theatrics and feel that a theme park is the ultimate entertainment experience.

For a long time I’ve been considering the Disney College Program, I just wasn’t sure how to go about getting involved.  Here’s some information  from personal experience and from friends who have been accepted and even completed the program:

The first thing you are going to do is fill out an online application.  To get to the application go to http://cp.disneycareers.com/en/default/ and click the “Apply Now” tab in the top right corner.  On this application you will be able to choose the positions you are interested in by selecting whether you are not interested, moderately interested, or very interested in a particular position.

Hint: most people will tell you to choose “very interested” for every position to increase your chances to get in.  I happen to think that you should be honest with what you actually want to do.  This way, you avoid being assigned to a job that you would not enjoy.  Don’t be desperate.  Your enthusiasm during the phone interview is more important than choosing “very interested” for every position.

If your application is accepted then you must schedule a phone interview.  To prepare for your phone interview write down this information:

  1. A legitimate reason for joining the college program.  Don’t just say that you want to get away or it sounds fun.  Write down your opening statement and edit it to make it flow with eloquence.
  2. Think of the top three positions you would like to work and write them down.  Record the reasons for why you would want to work in these areas and why you’d be good at it.
  3. Write down your past job experiences and what you did on those jobs that will help you in the parks.
  4. Smile.  These are Disney Cast Members.  They know what a smile sounds like.
  5. If you have some extra time at the end of the interview, ask your interviewer about their “Disney Story”.  Almost all cast members love their job, and they love to explain how they came to be a part of the Disney Corporation.

Hint- schedule your interview with 30 minutes to spare before and after.  The interviewers have a tendency to be very early or very late depending on other interviews of the day.

Keep these notes near during your interview.  They can be very helpful.  And don’t be afraid of the interview.  There will be a cast member on the other line who is just as eager to get you into the program as you are to be accepted.

Hint: If you can work it into the conversation, make sure that you prove your knowledge of the Disney Corporation.  For example, my interview was the day after Disney let cast members grow beards, and I brought that up to my interviewer when talking about dress code.  A friend of mine simply asked his interviewer if it was her unbirthday.  We both were accepted.

Once accepted, you must choose arrival and departure dates.  There is not much leeway with these so just take what you can get.  As you get closer and closer to your arrival date you will be getting more and more information about what to do, bring, and how to prepare.  With all of this you’ll also receive a large online packet of information about the company and proper cast member conduct.

I have just begun my journey in the College Program.  I started on August 20th.  Throughout this semester, I will be posting stories, pictures and videos, so you will be able to join along with me.  I’ll show you where I’ll be living, what I’m doing and even what goes into becoming a Disney employee. See ya real soon.

Have you been through the Disney College Program? Do you have any advice or stories to share? Leave a comment−I would love to hear from you!

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  • Rbar

    When checking into The Boardwalk I asked the desk clear if they were part of the Disney College program. The immediate response was, “They treat you even worse if you are in that program.” This was from a college student who was considering going to law school later.

    • Plaiditude

      As a former college program and professional internship cast member, as well as a DVC member, let me be the first to say that the cast member at The Boardwalk front desk was acting INCREDIBLY unprofessional and not representative of what a cast member should be.

      Yes, to be realistic, CPs tend to get all of the leftover shifts in the schedule that the full timers who have bids don’t work. They fill in the gaps, and sometimes the hours are rough. In theory, hiring CPs is a smart practice for Disney, they don’t have to pay them a lot, nor do they have to give them benefits.

      However, that being said, I did the college program 6 years ago, and it was one of the most rewarding, amazing, defining experiences of my life (and I didn’t even LIKE my first role. I loved my professional internship role, however). I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Even on my most rough work days, I would have never said that to a guest. I might be honest if it was a college student who was seriously considering it and asked me about my hours, but I would just be honest and not paint it in a negative light.

      You are playing a role, even if you are checking someone in at the front desk. Often times this is someone’s first impression of their vacation, which is an escape from reality. If you want to complain about your job, do it offstage, not to a guest. That was not a great cast member that you spoke to. There are difficulties working for Disney, and it is hard to make a decent living as a full timer on the front lines, especially if you have a family…but it is what it is. You should not be making comments to that about guests.

      • wave789

        I worked with a lot of college program CMs at Disneyland and over here they got the good shifts, rather than the leftovers, at least in my department. The full timers always got their lines, but the college program CMs would automatically have more seniority than most part timers and would therefore get most of the desirable shifts, leaving regular part timers with the leftovers.

      • Kevin

        Yes, I completely agree. Even though the college program students at WDW are usually given the less sought after closing shifts, you must exude the Disney spirit. Each role that is given to a cast member is given for a reason. At Disney every part of the company must be able to create magic, no matter how small the job is. Also, the closing shifts are not meant to be a punishment for being the low man on the totem pole. To get a later shift is helpful to many beginners because it means that they walk into the attraction/restaurant/merchandise location/hotel with it already up and running. Closing can be much easier than opening.

  • StevenSokulski

    If you’re a college student seriously considering the program, please visit http://www.disneycollegeprogram.com for the latest info. The link in this article is an internal link that Disney refrains from giving out as it may become inactive at any time.

    Depending on your current university, your first line of contact might be an in-person presentation or communication with a resource known as Campus Reps. These are students on your campus that have completed the program (often more than once) and are eager to help you on your journey.

    This column looks like it’ll provide a great look at some “unofficial” info. Be sure to reach out to the company for the official info at the time that you’re applying. Some of this info may be less applicable in certain situations, though the Cast Members in the recruiting department should be happy to steer you through.

    • D3COY

      I clicked on your link and it turned into the same link posted in the article…

    • Kevin

      Thank you for posting the link. I did not know that the one in the article was only for temporary use. I’ll try and make note of that in the next one.

  • WDW1971

    Cool series Kevin. Look forward to reading about it and your experiences in the upcomming months.

    One quick question though: How are you able to fit in the architecture education with a semester leave to do the College Program? I know that there is a very rigorous 5 year course for architecture students so I could not imagine taking a semester off to work for Disney. Are you getting credit? Or taking 5 and a half years to finish?

    • Kevin

      Truth is, I started in Engineering. I did a semester of that, didn’t like it, and switched to Architecture. The proper second semester architecture classes that I needed would not be given in this Fall semester. I was caught up in my other necessary classes so I believed that it was almost a sign for me to join the program, because I would’ve been wasting a semester back at school with no Architecture classes. Thanks for the feedback and questions.

      • WDW1971

        Cool. I’m also studying architecture and want to do the College Program but it seems impossible to fit it in. I wonder what role you are being assigned (I am guessing you will tell us in future posts) and if it is related to architecture.

        Makes sense for you though to do it. It is better to be at Disney for a semester than at college doing busy work waiting for first year classes spring semester.

        Have fun!

  • Algernon

    It’s time to put all college on the Internet for free–paid for with commercials. Fire all the professors, sell all the campuses as real estate. No SAT’s or entrance exams. Classes can be taught by avatars like Homer Simpson or Ludwig von Drake. The time for brick and mortar schools is over. As for all those unemployed professors, I heard McDonald’s is hiring.

    • Kevin

      I wish that there was a like button for this comment.

  • WesternMouse

    The management at Typhoon treated the CPs like royalty. All the FT CMs hated every group that came in. My first year at as a FT CM at Typhoon began in May, about a month before the CPs came in. I didn’t understand the hate until the end of the summer when management just flooded them with gifts, prizes, accolades, parties, etc.

    On the other hand, Disney hoses these poor CPs badly. At that time, they were paid $5.60 an hour and then charged each CP $800+ for rent on an apt Disney owns (Vista Way) and one stuffed with 4-5 other people. That’s like indentured servitude right there. Disney is soooo arrogant that they think chump students will get a great resume bullet with this experience. If I’m hiring a college grad and see the college program on a resume, I definitely don’t put them in charge of anything that has to do with money–they apparently didn’t do the math on what a bad deal the CP is.

    • Plaiditude

      “If I’m hiring a college grad and see the college program on a resume, I definitely don’t put them in charge of anything that has to do with money–they apparently didn’t do the math on what a bad deal the CP is”

      That’s one of the most ridiculous and short sighted things I’ve ever read. I wanted to do the WDWCP because I loved Disney and wanted the experience (yes, I was one of “those” who wanted to be an Imagineer at the age of 10). I knew that they pay sucked, I knew that I would likely not even be able to live off of what I earned after rent was taken out of my paycheck. HOWEVER, I truly went down for the experience, it was something I had wanted to do ever since I found out about it when my family first got dial up in our home and I was able to search the internet. I wanted the opportunity to work at my favorite place, I wanted to be a part of the experience.

      I was in a fortunate enough financial situation that I didn’t have to live just off of my earnings from my CP hourly wages, I had additional money that I brought down with me. In fact, most of my friends down there who did the CP with me had money from home that they were spending down there in addition to our very small paychecks.

      I sincerely hope that you’re kidding with that statement, otherwise, you might be missing out on a wonderful candidate due to your inaccurate assumptions.

      • WesternMouse

        I’m shortsighted but you brought down money to supplement your meager Disney CP income? Thank you for proving my point. I just didn’t make up that information I posted. It all came straight from the mouths of babes. So you know how to save money. That’s a good thing. Don’t flatter yourself too much by thinking you’re a good candidate. Perhaps you are, perhaps you’re not.

        I’ll add this: a couple of the CPs kept taking early outs when they first arrived. Their paycheck was actually in the negative. No kidding. They were in debt to Disney for the rent. That’s just unreal. Go to work to be in debt. I suppose that’s a real world lesson, but I still say it’s indentured servitude.

      • Plaiditude

        Westernmouse, I suggest you reread my comment. I never “flattered myself” by thinking I’m a good candidate. I stated that with your line of thinking, you might be missing out on a wonderful candidate. I’m sorry, but I missed the part where I said that I was a good candidate for every single job in the world…? My point was that you might be missing out on someone who is a great fit by dismissing them or making assumptions about them because they participated in the Walt Disney World College Program. I wasn’t including myself in that, it was a blanket statement.

        I didn’t prove your point at all. More times than not, people do internships for the experience. I explained that in my response to you. Dustysage pointed out that MOST internships in todays economy are UNPAID internships. If I were interviewing a candidate who had the WDWCP on their resume, I would want to know why they applied to the program in the first place, and what they got out of it.

        I’m a teacher, I am very passionate about working with kids. Working in Epcot gave me the best of both of those worlds, and my role in Guest Relations provided me with many opportunities to handle conflict resolution and test my problem solving skills. Angry parents in Disney World who are upset aren’t very different from frustrated parents during parent teacher conferences. Peoples emotions run high when dealing with their children. Guest Relations also gave me the opportunity to learn more about various disabilities/work with children with special needs/gain hands on experience with assistive technology, which is EXTREMELY relevant in the classroom. There are things I learned through my Guest Relations internship that actually helped me on my special education certification exam, in regards to ADA compliance, assistive technology, access, etc.

      • WesternMouse


        I’m just trying to rile you up. Don’t take anything I said personally. I do insist that the CP program is a bad deal financially. A CP CM can only hope that they will get a good assignment and make the best of it like you did. I learned a great deal, too, while at Disney as a FT CM. I was never a hater of the CPs like the other FT CMs, but that’s probably because I was new to Disney, too.

        I did mean to say that you proved my point about Disney’s bad pay. It’s bad when a CP must be better off than most financially to subsidize Disney’s low paying program. Disney is really using it’s name to convince college kids to be a source of low-paying positions. That’s just wrong to me. For all the good things we all like about Disney, the corporate side I saw then is really bad show.

    • Most internships in the US these days are unpaid. It’s quite the growing controversy. So, although it might not seem like it, the College Program kids are lucky indeed.

      Internships are valuable, and in many college classes, required. In my work, we both seek out interns to put to work for a semester as well as hire many of them when their programs complete.

      Looking forward to hearing if Kevin’s dreams hold up once he gets on the job and assigned to a dorm room.

      • Rbar

        Do not judge that CP CM by that single remark.
        We chatted for a bit; I accepted it as honest feedback.
        The thing about charging summer workers for rent reminds me of how the vendors at National Parks treat summer staff.
        I think the comments above provide insights from both perspectives.
        However, some people can rationalize any and everything.
        In a guest survey, I’d have given the CM top marks for their professionalism.
        I am glad to read about the college program; no disrepect was intended towards anyone by my post.

      • Kevin

        Very true, Dusty. The fact that they pay you should be rejoiced and not ridiculed. Disney is willing to pay us, while giving us the amazing classes and seminars that are offered by the program. This is a very good quality that I found from this program.

    • Kevin

      The College Program isn’t completely horrible. College program students must work a minimum of 30 hours a week (and now the lower position pay is about $7.50). They receive about $190 due to taxes depending on how you filled out your I-9 form. Now to stay at one of the nicer apartments is around $90 a week. Then this CP has 100 dollars left to spend on food and entertainment. Keep in mind that as a Disney College Program cast member you have free transportation from you apartment complex to your work, the local Walmart, and the closest outlet mall. Yes the rent is expensive, but you forget that transportation is added to the mix. On top of that, for entertainment, CPs get their ID card that gets them into any park for free, discounts at all Disney owned stores, discounts to all sit down restaurants on property (even those not directly owned by Disney), and up to 50% discounts on places like Disney Quest and Cirque du Soleil. Even some not-Disney-owned local businesses give discounts to Disney CMs. The money situation I provided above shows possibly the lowest paid cast member working the least amount of hours and staying in the most expensive apartments. Overall I think that the College Program lets us be well off.

  • stitch1085

    Well the college program in Florida might be great but the kids in the “college program” at Disneyland is seriously lacking. It basically is just working as a part-time CM. They have classes that are few and far between and don’t really teach you much about the workings of a corporation like Disney or any real world applications. It’s all about magic, and wonderfulness and cherishing memories. I should know I wasted a semester on this garbage and I thought to myself what the heck am I doing here? This is a waste! Ultimately I completed the “college program” and was offered my dream job at Disney…working as a part-time cast member in the stores on Main Street…yippeee! To anyone interested in the “college program” I say to you good luck, Disney has a high turn over rate at the lower ranks, the fat cats in management and higher have a cushy life and won’t give it up anytime soon!

    • Kevin

      Yeah, Stitch. I see your point about the program at Disneyland. That’s why I didn’t choose it. There were less classes, it was difficult to get to them, and it seemed less like an internship and more of a job. The recent evacuations from the Disneyland CP dorms due to the Anaheim protests helped to solidify my decision as well. So far I say, if you are to do a Disney College Program, do it at WDW. Immerse yourself in it! Walt Disney World is much bigger and a CP has a lot more options in classes, jobs, and entertainment.

  • Former WDW CP here (Kilimanjaro Safaris Spring 07) – I LOVED my program, really had a great experience from it overall. I took a couple of the classes, spent a lot of my time off in the parks and met some really fantastic people. Looking forward to seeing what you think of the program/your role. I really believe it’s what you put into it — I feel like your attitude going in makes a HUGE difference on what you get out of the program (like all internships, etc, but I feel like people lose sight of that).