Disney College Program
The Disney College Program is a U.S. national internship program operated by The Walt Disney Company, located at the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort. The Disney College Program recruits students (18 years and older) and all majors for a semester-long paid internship program working at the Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort.
The first Disney College Program began in 1981. In the early days, the College Program consisted of just over 200 students from 20 schools working in only one theme park, the Magic Kingdom. At that time it was known as The Magic Kingdom College Program (MKCP). In October 1982, program participants could work at Epcot as well as the Magic Kingdom and the program was known as The Walt Disney World College Program, employing approximately 500 college students each spring, summer and fall session. From the beginning of the program until 1988, almost all program participants stayed in an off-property mobile home park called Snow White Village Campground (the remainder in Lake Vista Village apartments) in nearby Kissimmee, Florida. 1987 saw the opening of Vista Way apartments, which were much closer to the participants' employment. Following the resort's massive growth in the 1990s and the widespread popularity of the internet, the College Program has grown substantially, seeing three new participant housing complexes built and many more colleges represented. As of 2005, 8,000 students have participated each year, representing at least 301 colleges and universities with an average of 4,000 students at any given time.
In the Autumn of 2004, student opportunities at Disneyland were combined with the opportunities available at Walt Disney World. The program was renamed to the Disney Theme Parks and Resorts College Program. Currently, the program is being promoted as, simply, the Disney College Program.
There are specific requirements a student must meet before applying for the Disney College Program. All students must be of 18 years or older before the expected day of arrival. Students must be enrolled in an accredited university or college as a full-time or part-time student, and actively taking classes. Students must complete at least one semester of university or college before entering the Disney College Program, but can apply during their first semester for participation in the program during their second semester. In the case of schools with additional requirement criteria, a student must meet all of those eligibilities before being considered by the program.
Students who apply to the program are given the option of one of several program seasons throughout the year, each usually lasting between five and seven months, though the culinary session length is dependent upon the student's school schedule.
After the general application is filed, students participate in a web-based interview. Students who are selected to proceed beyond the web-based interview then go through a second round over the phone. Here the students clarify with recruiters which of the roles they would be receptive to while attending the program. Some of these roles (or positions) are food and beverage, attractions, custodial, hospitality, merchandise, and entertainment. If a student chooses to apply for an entertainment role, he or she must attend one of several regional auditions. At one point, there was a required viewing of a presentation, however, as of the Fall 2013 application period that is no longer a requirement.
Final notification of the applicant's status (accepted, pending, or denied) is usually sent out within 3 weeks of the phone interview.
At the beginning of the program in the early 1980s, three "experiences" were emphasized: "The Learning Experience", which involved participation in Disney's "Leisure Time Business Management Studies", "The Work Experience" which included work in 4 major areas of the resort, and "The Recreational Experience" which emphasized recreational activities and Disney-sponsored events. Since that time, the experiences have changed slightly to "living", "learning" and "earning".
The "Living" experience is similar to the original program's "Recreational" experience. Once the student has accepted their position with Disney, they can stay in one of four company sponsored housing units near Walt Disney World Resort during the duration of the program: Vista Way, Chatham Square, Patterson Court, and The Commons (which houses mainly international Cast Members). At the Disneyland Resort, participants stay in the Carnegie Plaza building approximately two miles north of the resort. Each participant can choose to live in a one, two, three, or four bedroom apartment with two people per bedroom. In addition to these options, the Disneyland housing offers a limited number of studio-style apartments.
The cost of housing is deducted automatically from the student’s weekly salary. The cost of housing varies depending on the housing location. There are fees the student must pay upfront upon acceptance into the program based on housing, and these too vary between locations. In Florida there is a nonrefundable program assessment fee of $100 as well as a housing and administration fee for $200, which covers 2 weeks' rent. In California the program assessment fee is $100, with a refundable security deposit of $200 as well as $560 in housing and assessment fees which covers 4 weeks' rent.
Students are expected to follow certain guidelines in the housing complexes. Roommates are assigned by gender and age, except in the case of a married couple. If a student is under the age of 21 they automatically are placed in a “Wellness Apartment”, or one that is deemed alcohol-free. For students located in Florida the Disney Company provides transportation to and from the theme parks. Transportation is not provided for students located in California. Those students are encouraged to bring their own cars. They are also given free bus passes for the OCTA public transportation system, and earn $1 each day the pass is used.
The "Learning" experience began in the early 80s as a group of 9 seminars on the "philosophies and operating practices" of the various sections of their resort's business. It has grown to include 8 different courses, each focusing on a Disney topic, rather than a business area. The Students are required to do textbook readings, write term papers and participate on projects. Additionally, there are now Disney Exploration Series courses, which are more focused on business areas as they relate to Disney. Participants, just like every Cast Member attend Traditions, which is a 4 hour long orientation that demonstrates everything about the Resort of employment and the company in general. The Disney Look is required for attendance at Traditions, which is the participants' first official day of work. The program also offers "job shadowing" for participants on days they are not working - the participant can follow Disney Cast Members whose careers are in fields similar to the student's major. Most of the courses are approved by the American Council on Education and offer participants the possibility to earn college credit during their program, subject to a decision by the participant's college or university. The classes approved meet once a week, for most of the program (with breaks during peak seasons) and are four hours long.
The "Earning" experience consists of students working within their resort. At the program's inception, students were expected to work in one of 4 "major operating areas": Food, Merchandise, Attractions, and Custodial. Currently, Disney College Program students work in more than 20 different roles.
Depending on the requirements of a student's school, internship credit may be earned.
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