The Disney College Program has grown and evolved dramatically since its 1981 inception. Today, the program provides Walt Disney World with approximately 5 percent of its workforce. It is also fiercely competitive. According to the Orlando Sentinel, every year around 50,000 college students apply for just 12,000 positions. For those who make it through the rigorous process, opinions are mixed. Some love the opportunities the program provides, while others are shocked to find themselves working long hours, often in the direct sun, for relatively low wages. Like anything else in life, though, what you get out of it depends on what you put in. Here is what you might not know about the Disney College Program.
1. The concept
The Disney College Program is open to all enrolled college students over the age of 18 who have completed at least one semester. Students take on jobs around the Walt Disney World resort for a period of 6 to 9 months. Housing and transportation are available, although some college program cast members choose to live off-site, and all are welcome to bring a car if desired. There are opportunities to extend your program for another semester, and you are welcome to apply for a second, third, or even fourth program.
2. The application process
The application process is arguably the toughest part of the program. You are responsible for making sure that you meet whatever requirements your college or university sets for participation, and you should work with your advisor to figure out how your studies or financial aid might be affected.
Applying for the college program starts with a standard job application, with one exception—you will need to rate your level of interest in each potential role, from character performer to custodian. Some people say that the more roles you show interest in, the more likely you are to be hired—but do you really want to spend an entire semester doing a job you hate? Research the roles before you apply, and only indicate interest in those that actually interest you.
The next step is a web based interview (WBI). This is a sort of online personality inventory that ranks your ways of handling yourself and different situations against what Disney is looking for. Not everyone will pass the WBI, and not everyone will mesh well with the “Disney way.” Present your best self, but be honest and avoid the temptation to try to game the system. There is no real way to know exactly what Disney is looking for, and you will only stress yourself out if you try.
If you pass the WBI, you will be invited to a telephone interview. This is a pretty standard job interview, in which you will answer questions related to the roles for which you are being considered, as well as more general questions about past work experiences and how you feel about living with roommates. You will probably also be asked to list your top 3 roles.
After the phone interview, be prepared to wait…and wait…and wait. Two weeks is the average, although some receive an answer sooner or later than this time frame. If you are accepted, you will receive both an email and a huge snail mail package with lots of information and forms.
3. Where you’ll work
This is possibly the biggest quirk in the Disney College Program system. You will learn your general role when you are accepted, such as Attractions or Quick Service Food and Beverage. But the Walt Disney World resort is enormous, and each category encompasses a huge variety of possible locations. Would you believe that you won’t learn *where* you are actually working until you arrive in Orlando?
College Program cast members literally work all over Walt Disney World. You might be at the Magic Kingdom, All-Star Movies, the Grand Floridian, or Fantasia Mini-Golf. You could sell hot dogs on the street or run a busy food court. You might dispatch the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or spiel on the Great Movie Ride. Flexibility is essential, because it is nearly impossible to switch locations during your program.