|Affiliation||The Walt Disney Company|
|Students||4,000+ per semester|
|Monthly newsletter||The Communicator|
|International||Disney International Programs|
The Disney College Program (DCP) is a United States national internship program operated by the Disney Programs division of The Walt Disney Company, located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. The program recruits college students (ages 18 and older) of all majors for a semester-long paid internship program working at either the Orlando or Anaheim resorts, with the option of extending to almost a full year.
The first Disney College Program began in 1981 as the Magic Kingdom College Program (MKCP) and initially consisted of just over 200 students from 20 schools working only at Magic Kingdom, in Bay Lake, ten years after the theme park opened. In October 1982, the program expanded offerings to Epcot, when the theme park opened, and its name changed to the Walt Disney World College Program (WDWCP), employing approximately 500 college students each spring, summer and fall session. From the beginning of the program until 1988, almost all program participants resided in Snow White Village Campground, an off-property mobile home park and the remainder of Lake Vista Village apartments in Kissimmee. In 1987, a new apartment complex, Vista Way, was opened for college program participants nearby Lake Buena Vista, located much closer to the Disney property. By 1988, all participants were fully relocated out of Snow White Village Campground, which was later converted into a vacationing site.
Following the massive growth of the Walt Disney World Resort in the 1990s and the widespread popularity of the internet, the program grew 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 August 2006, the program expanded to Disneyland Resort and was renamed the Disney Theme Parks and Resorts College Program. The program's opportunities are available at all theme parks, resorts and shopping districts of the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort, officially changing its name to the Disney College Program, which is colloquially shortened and referred to as the DCP.
On March 14, 2020, operations of the Disney College Program, Culinary Program, Professional Internships and International Programs were suspended due to the ongoing worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and its spread to Florida and to California. On May 3, 2021, Disney Programs announced the Disney College Program will be returning to Orlando in June 2021 and will give priority to 2020 applicants to reapply. No announcement has been made for the program in Anaheim, the Culinary Program, Professional Internships or International Programs.
Eligible applicants are those who reside in the United States or their territories, who possess American citizenship,[a] are students of age 18 and older prior to the expected arrival date and are actively enrolled in an accredited semester-program university or college as a full-time or part-time student. Students actively enrolled in their final semester[b] of an accredited semester-program university or college may also apply in order to be accepted for the following program season or apply within a year of graduation. Students must complete at least one semester of university or college before entering the Disney College Program, but can apply during their first semester to be able to participate in the program during their second semester. In the case of schools with additional requirement criteria, the student must meet all of their school's eligibility before being considered for the program.
Students who apply are given the option to choose one of several program lengths throughout the year, each usually lasting between five and seven months, though the culinary session length depends on the student's school schedule. Once a student is approaching the end of their program, they may extend for an additional five months with the option to change to a different position[c] or transfer from their current resort (Orlando or Anaheim) to the other. Students may also apply for a full-time or part-time position with The Walt Disney Company.[d]
After the initial application has been submitted, students may be selected to participate in a web-based interview, either immediately or later. Students who are selected to proceed beyond the web-based interview will proceed to schedule a phone interview with a Disney recruiter for the third and final stage of the application process. Phone interviews with recruiters have a length of approximately twenty minutes in which students are asked to express their interests in the roles they've selected in their initial application, how their prior experience relates to their qualifications and relay how they'd react in certain scenarios. Some of the roles that participants may be selected for include food service, attractions, entertainment, activities, merchandise, etc. For entertainment roles, students must audition in person.
Final notification is usually sent about three weeks after the phone interview, though it can take up to 1–3 months, and the very last wave of final notifications are sent about a month prior to the final arrival date posted.
Experiences of the program
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 four major areas of the resort; and The Recreational Experience, which emphasized recreational activities and Disney-sponsored events. Since that time, the experiences have changed to Living, Learning and Earning.
The living experience is similar to the original program's recreational experience. Once the student has accepted their Disney offer, they have the option of either residing in their own apartment accommodations or choose to reside in company-sponsored housing.
For those who select company-sponsored housing, the cost of housing is deducted from the student's weekly salary and varies depending on the selected housing accommodation. There are fees that require upfront payment upon acceptance into the program based on housing, and these too vary between locations. In Orlando, a non-refundable program assessment fee is charged for administration support, scheduled housing events and activities throughout the program, and an additional housing and administration fee, which covers the first week of rent. In Anaheim, the program assessment fee also applies, along with a refundable security deposit as well as the housing and assessment fees which covers four weeks of rent.
Students are expected to follow certain guidelines in the company-sponsored housing complexes.[e] Apartments are single-gender only, except in the case of a married heterosexual couple, which both have to be accepted into the Disney College Program and have the same arrival and departure dates in order to live in a one-bedroom apartment, if they choose this accommodation. Students go through previously-notified apartment inspections at least twice throughout their program, though the complex administration reserves the right to inspect more than twice. Apartments must be deemed clean to the inspector in order to pass, this includes minimal dishes in the sink or dishwasher, vacuumed floors, clean counter tops, clean bathrooms and organized bedrooms.
The learning experience began in the early 1980s as a group of nine seminars on the "philosophies and operating practices" of the various sections of their resort's business. It has grown to include eight different courses, each focusing on a Disney topic, rather than a business area. 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. Classes meet once a week for most of the program and are four hours long, with breaks during peak seasons. Participating students are required to utilize textbook readings, write term papers and participate on projects. Additionally, the Disney Exploration Series offers courses focused on business areas as they relate to Disney.
Like every Cast Member, participants must attend Traditions at Disney University, a 4-to-5-hour-long welcome orientation focused on the introduction of the resort, from employment to the company's values, which also symbolizes as their official first day as a Disney Cast Member. Participants are expected to uphold the Disney Look required not only for Traditions but for all types of professional meetings, classes and training. The Disney Look policy follows guidelines of Cast Members' appearances; failure to follow them may result disciplinary action.[f]
The earning experience consists of students working within their role at their resort. At the program's inception, only four major operating areas were offered to participants: food service, merchandising, attractions and custodial. A fifth area, costuming, offers opportunities to work backstage with performers or in costuming operations. The Disney College Program offers opportunities for students to work in more than 20 different roles throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, including on-site resort hotels and the Disney Springs and Downtown Disney shopping districts.
From the beginning of the program until 1988, almost all college program participants resided in Snow White Village Campground, an off-property mobile home park and the remainder of Lake Vista Village apartments in Kissimmee. In 1987, a new apartment complex, Vista Way, was opened for college program participants nearby Lake Buena Vista, located much closer to the Disney property. By 1988, all participants were fully relocated out of Snow White Village Campground, which was later converted into a vacationing site.
After the opening of Vista Way, and over the years, three additional company-sponsored gated-community apartment complexes opened as the Disney College Program expanded to accommodate more participants: Chatham Square, The Commons and Patterson Court, all adjacently located in Little Lake Bryan, less than three miles away from Vista Way. Participants in Orlando were provided the option to either live off-property or, up until March 2020, reside in one of the four complexes. Participants in sponsored housing were provided with fully-furnished apartments, access to recreational amenities, computer labs and housing-sponsored transportation. However, those living off-property were not allowed to make use of housing-provided transportation or attend any housing events. In Anaheim, participants could also choose to live off-property or reside in company-sponsored housing at Carnegie Plaza, approximately two miles north of the resort.
Accepted students who were electing company-sponsored housing during the onboarding process, for either the Orlando or Anaheim program, were given options to reside in an accommodation of up to four bedrooms for up to three roommates per room. For Orlando housing, students were able to select one of the four apartment complexes, upon availability, or be randomly placed in any accommodation in any of the complexes, though not all complexes had the same accommodation options.
Flamingo Crossings Village (2021–present)
Flamingo Crossings Village is a new and more modern apartment complex, announced in 2018, that was intended to become the new home of all Orlando Disney College Program and International Programs participants in 2020. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and its spread to Florida, the opening of Flamingo Crossings Village was delayed and the four existing housing complexes were all closed as part of the previously-established relocation plan. In the wake of the indefinite suspension of the program announced in December 2020, and with construction completed, the Walt Disney Company opted to maintain the main purpose of Flamingo Crossings Village apartments by leasing exclusively to company Cast Members.
On May 3, 2021, Disney Programs announced the Disney College Program will be returning to Orlando in June 2021 and will be housing participants in Flamingo Crossings Village, as it was originally planned prior to the coronavirus pandemic's impact.
For participants in company-sponsored housing in Orlando, the Walt Disney Company provided sponsored transportation to and from all housing complexes and all work locations, as well as stops at grocery stores, the post office and a leisure route to The Florida Mall that ran twice a week. In Orlando, participants residing in company-sponsored housing were allowed to bring their own vehicles as well as make use of sponsored transportation. Participants residing off-site were not allowed to enter the housing complexes, unless they were signed in by a participant in company-sponsored housing, or make use of sponsored transportation. In Anaheim, however, transportation was not provided but participants were encouraged to bring their own vehicles and were also given free bus passes for the Orange County Transportation Authority public transportation system that earned them a dollar each day the pass was used.
Disney Culinary Program
The Disney Culinary Program is a subdivision of the Disney College Program but aimed at students enrolled in an accredited culinary school. The same experiences and housing accommodations are also provided to culinary students, as well as the application process remains the same but with specific requirements, mainly, being enrolled in an accredited culinary school in order to receive credit and also upholding the Disney Look. International students are also eligible to apply.
Disney Professional Internships
The Disney Professional Internships are professional internships offered by the Disney Programs division of The Walt Disney Company, aimed at students who would like to pursue a professional career in the company, such as business, marketing, sales, production, entertainment, etc. Internships are offered in many of the company's assets and divisions such as Walt Disney Studios, Disney Parks, Marvel Entertainment, ABC, ESPN, among others. Internships offer the same experiences as the Disney College Program, with the exception of sponsored housing and transportation, which interns are required to provide for themselves since internship offerings are available in different cities within the United States and even worldwide. Students participating in the Disney College program are eligible, as well as students who are actively enrolled in an accredited college or university, or students who have graduated from a college or university within eighteen months.
Disney International Programs
The Disney International Programs are based on the same values and experiences as the Disney College Program but aimed at international students, available only at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
On March 14, 2020, Disney Programs announced the suspension of the Disney College Program, Culinary Program, Professional Internships and International Programs due to the ongoing worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus and its spread to Florida and to California. Participants actively enrolled during this time in company-sponsored housing, including international and culinary students, were asked to vacate in a short period of time, providing full credit and completion of the program in return. Shortly after, the Disneyland Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort closed operations, initially until April 19, 2020. On April 6, 2020, the suspension of the program was extended to those applicants with May 2020 arrival dates, after The Walt Disney Company extended the closure of its resorts until early June 2020.
On July 2, 2020, Disney Programs announced the Disney College Program and the Disney International Programs would be suspended for the rest of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic further impacted operations of both the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. On December 16, 2020, it was announced that the Disney College Program was indefinitely suspended, citing uncertainty of when it will be able to resume in the future.
On March 9, 2021, at the Walt Disney Company's shareholder's meeting, CEO Bob Chapek expressed interest in resuming operations of the Disney College Program by the end of 2021. He also expressed interest in inviting back those participants who were impacted by the closure of the program in 2020, so they can properly experience and fulfil their programs. On May 3, 2021, Disney Programs announced the Disney College Program will be returning to Orlando in June 2021 and will give priority to 2020 applicants to reapply. No announcement has been made for the program in Anaheim, the Culinary Program, Professional Internships or International Programs.
- For example, students in Puerto Rico qualify to apply for the Disney College Program, and not the International Programs, given the fact that they are American citizens by birth.
- In cases when a student's final semester is in the first half of their school year, they are eligible to apply if they are no longer taking classes in what would be their second semester of the school year.
- Students who apply for an extension in a different position are not given the option of choosing a work location, which may result in a transfer within or outside the theme park, resort hotel or shopping district of their current work location.
- In cases when a student has already accepted an extension and later offered a full-time or part-time position with The Walt Disney Company, they will be refunded the fees charged for their extension, given full credit and awarded completion of their program.
- Up until the Fall 2019 semester, students were required to live in "wellness" or "non-wellness" apartments based on age. Students under the age of 21, were automatically placed in a wellness apartment, deemed alcohol-free. Students over the age of 21 who chose to live in a wellness apartment were also be prohibited from consuming alcohol in their own apartment but allowed to consume in any non-wellness.
- Up until April 2021, the Disney Look had many restrictions, most notably prohibiting any visible tattoos, that were waived or modified. The updated guidelines now permit visible tattoos (with certain restrictions), use of any color of nail polish for all genders, hair length and styles for all genders, etc.
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