If you’ve ever researched the Disney College Program, you may be aware of the main aspects of the program: living, learning, and earning. The program is a paid internship that allows students to work at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, while taking (sometimes optional) classes in exchange for college credit. The obvious advantages of the program include the ability to work for the Walt Disney Company, network with leaders and other cast members, earn college credit, and spend some time living on one’s own. There are even more benefits to be had as a result of the program that are often overlooked:
For many students, living away from home while in college or on an internship will be their first dose of financial independence. Much like a dorm room, paying for housing during the Disney College Program is a less independent than paying rent or a mortgage in the real world would be. Rather than holding students responsible for paying their rent, interns on the Disney College Program have rent deducted from their paychecks weekly.
While this method of paying rent ensures that rent will be paid regardless of whether or not the students are financially responsible, it does at least serve to demonstrate what a paycheck minus the cost of rent will look like. Students participating in the Disney College Program are often surprised to learn how small their paychecks are while working 35+ hours per week with rent automatically deducted.
The cost of housing on the Disney College Program includes much more than rent generally would. Included in the weekly housing deduction are utilities, Wi-Fi, cable, heat, hot water, and A/C, in addition to other amenities including swimming pools, 24-hour security, gyms, transportation to and from work, Publix, Walmart, and the Post Office, and events like pool parties, grocery bingo, movie nights, and more. Still, for a student who has never been financially responsible for housing, the program can be a good introduction to what it is like to live on one’s own.
In addition to rent, students are responsible for purchasing their own groceries, and anything else they may need. With a careful budget, it is very possible to pay for groceries, toiletries/other necessities and the occasional entertainment on the Disney College Program. Unfortunately many CPs often find themselves broke—first time budgeting may not always be successful, and although many may spend their programs hard for cash, they will likely at least learn the importance of budgeting for the future.
For students who enter the program with other bills and financial responsibilities like car insurance, payments, and upkeep, or student loans, credit card bills, and phone bills, learning how to budget properly becomes even more important. If a CP is already responsible for paying for things like credit card debt or car insurance, the budgeting aspect of the program may not come as much of a shock—the take home pay with the rent deducted however may be. The best advice for this situation is to save up as much extra money as possible before participating in the Disney College Program.
Though some CPs do stay on after their programs, and continue to live in Orlando and work for Disney, the program is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many. To make the most of each moment on the program, saving up extra money prior to arriving is always a wise decision.