The Disney College Program (DCP) is a paid internship experience for college students and recent graduates that allows them to work for Disney for a short period of time. You have to apply for it and get accepted into the program. It is fairly competitive. Check out the application process here.
There are multiple options when signing up for the Disney College Program, the first is which location you would like to work at. As a DCP applicant you have the opportunity to either work at Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California. Depending on the location, they both differ in the jobs or “roles” they offer.
There are also different periods of time that the program is offered during. You can choose from Fall or Spring. Fall is approximately September-December and Spring is approximately January-May. If you choose the “Advantage” option you also have the ability to either arrive early, or stay late by working the busy summer months of June-August. While working during your program you also may have the opportunity to extend your program.
There are also some illusions many people have about what the DCP actually is and I have listed many of the more common ones below:
- Keep in mind that although the DCP is a paid internship experience you do not get paid extremely well. Most participants in the DCP get paid Disney minimum wage or slightly above. I worked custodial during my College Program in 2016 and was paid $10/hour.
- The “roles” that are offered are not extravagant. Although it is called an internship you will not be working in the design rooms nor in the movie business. Most of the roles are entry-level jobs in the parks or resorts that include custodial, QSFB (fast-food type work), and merchandise. Many of the fancier roles like concierge are very competitive and much more limited.
- Every day is not going to feel “magical”. Yes, you are working for an incredible company that allows you to add magic to a guest’s day, but you will encounter guests that are rude, ungrateful, and outright mean. You will also be stressed at times and feel a strong loathing for your job. It is part of the experience. There are many ups and downs-just like any other job.
- The DCP is about working for the company. Although it should be a fun experience most people work over 30 hours a week and even up to 70 hours a week depending on the role and the time of year. You will have some free time, but usually only 1-2 days off per week.
- You are considered the bottom of the totem pole, and although your education and experiences matter, they will most likely not be used most days. There are many people that jokingly say that you are a “Disney slave” while on the College Program. Although this is definitely an exaggeration, you are not given many of the perks that full-time/part-time employees get and you will be usually working the hours that are undesirable to others. Disney ranks a lot on seniority, and when you start you are at the bottom.
- You will be working on holidays, special events, and during times that you may prefer to request off. It varies by location, but it can be difficult to give away/trade shifts. I knew multiple people that found it very easy to get time off, and people that had to work when their family came to visit because they couldn’t request off. It just depends on location and role.
- You get little say in what you want to do. When interviewing you can suggest which roles you would like the best, but in the end Disney chooses where you go and what you do. They don’t allow you to switch roles (unless for proven medical reasons) and if you perform badly or have bad attendance you can be sent home.
- You have to successfully complete your program to put the DCP on your resume. If you participate but terminate your program for any reason (or you get terminated) you are not allowed to list the experience on your resume. Make sure you are committed to staying the full term before you go.
Although these points seem extremely negative, it is better to know what to expect than to have a false reality of what the DCP is. On the positive side, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for Disney, which is one of the most successful companies in the world. Upon successful completion, it also gets your foot in the door for future employment and gives you the chance to meet people from all over the world!
I have so many great memories from my program. I met the most incredible people and grew so much while working there. It is not always easy to be away from home, but you also get to do and see things that other people don’t. Of course I would recommend it, but make sure you have the right mindset and expectations.