The Disney College Program (DCP) Experience

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“What is it like to work for Walt Disney World?”, “What is the College Program all about?”, “I’ve heard horrible things about the program” or “It was life changing.” In this article, I will answer many questions and tell my experiences.

Disney College Program, DCP, for me was not planned out. It was my senior year and with a mix up at my university, I had to take a 3 hour credit course my senior year spring semester to graduate. I could not do a real internship, at least to get class credit because I had already reached the 15 intern credit hours for my degree. I did not want to stick around my university’s town for a 3 hour credit course. I applied to DCP to do something. I had a few friends that did the program and loved it! I heard a few bad things about it. I thought about doing it freshman year of college, but decided against it.

I applied online, and at the end of application, the site said I passed and was asked to schedule a phone interview. I cannot remember if I went through one or two phone interviews. This was fall 2011 and the program was for Spring 2012. I was accepted to the program. I had two weeks to pay, from what I remember, 100-150 down deposit for first half of first month’s rent. Instead of getting regular Spring DCP, I got accepted for Spring Advantage. Advantage meaning your time is extended, aka I would be there from January until August. At first, I was turned off by this, I was graduating in May and I did not want to work for 8 bucks an hour. I started thinking, well it is smart to have a job when I look for another job and if I find something, I will leave. I was told, by Disney recruiters, if you leave the program early, you can never work for Disney. However, I have been told people were hired back after leaving the program early, I do not know if you need an legitimate reason or not. I was told multiple things, as you will about everything at Disney and most big companies. I was thinking, if I leave early and, down the road, I apply for anything in the Disney corporation, will it hurt me? I found out that it will not, it just matters for the parks. I decided to take an independent study for my 3 hour credit, I suggest everyone to do an independent study in college, and I accepted the ‘internship’ for DCP. I put internship in quotation marks because for the most part, it’s just a regular park job. I will talk more about how Disney phrases this as an internship later. I ended up finishing the advantage program because I feel in love with my lifestyle, not job so much, but with my lifestyle during the program. I do miss working with guest in general, because seeing them happy brought happiness to me, which I saw many cast members continue to work for Disney for that reason.

The interviewing process for me were two phone interviews. Things to know, if you have tattoos, that are not hidden, like on hand, you will not be able to do some roles, but it does not mean you cannot get into DCP. Disney is very strict with hair, facial hair, nail colors, etc.

Be careful if you have had a history of getting in trouble with the law. Disney does do a background check when you get there, they do tell you in the interview FYI, so do not lie. If you get there and have something on your background check, they will send you home.  If you have questions, ask the interviewer during your phone interview. If you are an international student, you better know English. They will test your English when you get to Disney and if you fail, you are sent home that week.

I suggest joining Facebook groups to meet another DCP’s. I went to the search bar, typed in different search words like DCP 12, etc. I was able to meet (on social media) people before I got to Orlando. Some people find this creepy and awkward, meeting people on a SOCIAL network (social network, meaning to connect to people right). Many people are on the same boat and for the most part, nobody knows anyone and you can meet people fairly easy through Facebook and Twitter. Another reason I joined Facebook pages was to find a roommate. The DCP roommate online match up is useless. Unfortunately, most the people I wanted to be roommates were under 21 (could not drink alcohol on DCP apartment property if under 21) or coming in different days then me.

I drove down Florida A1A, off subject but a wonderful drive along the Atlantic Coast, from Jacksonville to Miami. Florida has many toll roads and the toll from Miami to Orlando, there is a 13 dollar toll. Be prepared to pay for some tolls and carry cash or a check. If you run a toll, Florida gives you two free passes where they will not fine you.

I pulled into Vista Way, one of the four apartment complexes for DCP, at 1 AM. I got in line for the sign in at 4 AM, I was probably 50 people behind. This is another great way to meet people and if you meet someone you really like, you can room with them, same sex that is.

The work CP’s do are the stereotypically “summer job”, lifeguards, recreation (managing boats or working with children), working in a restaurant, retail, working on the rides, etc. My job was recreation. I worked at the Contemporary Resort and was deployed to the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and the Campgrounds, being deployed means spending time working somewhere else other than your “home base”. For the most part, my job was not difficult. My hours were ideal for CP who wanted nightlife, in the off season hours for me were 10 AM to 5 PM, because less sunlight. In March during, Spring Break season, my times would range anywhere between 9 AM to 6 PM. I rented out boats, made sure they were safe, drove the boats to get repaired, talked about safety to guest, cleaned boats and marina, gave directions, assisted guest, handled cash, etc. On my resume I wrote “Guest Services/Relations”. Disney focuses heavy on guest relations. Most the coords were good and most my managers were good, you have some that are not, but I have noticed that at many work places. I did not like how Disney does not let the coords or managers write you letter of recommendations, I questioned, what is the point of this “internship” if I cannot get a letter of recommendation? They will if you apply within the parks. However, some managers will still help you, if you are interested, message me and I will tell you how they helped me in the real world as references. I am still close with few of my managers and coords, that being with e-mailing, LinkedIn and Facebook. The guest also vary, you have some genuine pleasant people and some horrific guest that will make your life miserable. Disney takes safety very serious, after a handful of mistakes, including a death of a CP.

I am not going to lie, the pay is not good but I knew that going down there. I was not worried about pay because I was still in college and my parents were helping, so I lucked out. I knew many on the program who had bills to pay for. It is possible, but they worked a lot more and picked up extra shifts, and some still struggled. Pay starts at high 7 dollars and I believe goes up close to 10 dollars. If you want a 9 dollar job, you are going to have to pick up garbage and do the dirty jobs. My hours were about 30-40 hours a week. I would give many of my hours away to part timers because I wanted more time to spend with friends, the parks, go to the beach, road trips to FSU/UF, sleep in from the night of drinking or explore Orlando and Florida. Recreation was one of the roles with the least hours. If you want many hours, I suggest trying to get the parks, especially Magic Kingdom (from 40 to 70 hours a week) or trying to lifeguard at one of the resorts. Anyone can pick up shifts for parades at Magic Kingdom. However, if you work Magic Kingdom, your hours are going to suck. You will be working into the early mornings (3 AM). Retail and ride operations does not have the best hours. If you want to work in the parks and want decent hours, Animal Kingdom is your best bet. I had service jobs like this before, retail, serving. I believe everyone should work one service job in their lifetime. I believe in this aspect, it is good for college age kids, especially ones that have never worked a service job, to experience. You get to pick your job, but I suggest giving three of four choices if it is your first program. Giving a few choices will improve your chances of getting the job. I got recreation because of my camp counselor experience and volunteering with kids. I picked three, recreation, lifeguard and costuming.

Few perks, get into the parks for free, number of times you can get other people in for free. This is good for family vacations. Discounts on Disney cruise, Disney resorts, food, restaurants in the park and around Walt Disney World just to name a few.

The DCP has a call in system. I forgot how exactly it worked but it was something along the lines, do not call in sick or personal day for more than 3 times in one month and 6 times in 3 months. However, it all depends on your manager and if he/she wants to write you up for it, most will because they have to follow the strict guidelines. However, in my last three mouths, I racked up 14 points, and never got written up or fired. This is how write ups work, call in or personal day is one point, does not matter if you have a doctor’s note. If you clock in late, clock in early (15 mins before your shift starts) or forget your clock in card, it is half a point. There are other ways to get points taken off, such as breaking safety issues, not being cleaned shaved (it is usually being told more than once), and few other rules, but these are rare, at least from what I saw and heard. I should have been let go, 14 points in little over 90 days, but two reasons why I did not get written up. One, my managers really liked me and two, main reason, I was deployed for a while from my home base. There’s a two week window where the managers can write you up, if they miss it, they cannot write you up. Since, I was deployed and away from CT for a month, I was not written up for one of them. I thought I would get slapped with at least one before my program ended my last week, but nothing. People might ask, why does this matter, well, if you want to do the program again, or PI, go part time or full time, write ups will hurt, and maybe not get you the job.

“Everyone hooks up and it is easy to hook”, yes and no. These are college age kids, 18 to 23 even 24, and lets not be naive about what people 18 to 24 do. Here is my experiences with the opposite sex. There were so many good looking girls, more than I thought there would be. However, hooking up, is not as easy as many people say, unless you have no standards. If you have no standards, it will be extremely easy, but if you have standards, it will be as normal as at your college campus. With that being said, I never saw any peer pressure, if you did not want to do something, you did not have to. There were plenty of people who did the mature thing. I did have my share of fun but I was not as wild as my first few years of college. I suggest if you are in your wild phase, especially under 21, to be careful in the apartment complex, I will touch on this more. The party bus, I had mix feelings on them. There are a few of them, and you want to be careful. They are fun, if you have the right crowd and the buses are not packed. If you have a car or a friend who has a car, I suggest getting a designated driver and driving to the bars. The buses are 5-10 dollars, most the time, round trip, that includes the bar cover charge, if there is one. The bus is good if you cannot get a designated driver. The people who run the buses have connections with bar owners and promoters. If you are under 21, you will be able to get into 21+ bars because of your bus wrist ban, which will represent your cover to get into the bar. The problems I saw with the buses, Will the Photographer and I forgot the other guys bus,  have been known to leave drunk people behind because the drunk person will wonder off and/or forget the bus leaves 3 AM. The buses get back late to the apartment complexes (CP housing is next to Disney World and at least a 20 minute bus ride from downtown Orlando). The buses do not always go to DT ORL, half the time going to places close to the apartment complexes. Another problem I saw, Will’s buses went to a house party, and he took two buses, Will forgot to pay the bus drivers, so the drivers left, leaving about 60 DCP and many of them were late to work the next day, this goes back to the suggestion of driving to these locations. The guys who run and work for the buses, promoters, are sometimes not responsible. The buses have had problems with fighting and assaults on CP’s, because the buses allow non-CP’s to ride them. The buses are focuses on CP’s and providing them rides and a good time. The party bus has its pros and cons. I suggest being careful.

Girls, be extremely careful with guys from Orlando, especially ones that work for Disney, mainly non CPs. I am not saying that every guy is like this, but many of them just want sex, surprise surprise. They see CP girls, and know they are not going to be in Orlando for long. I saw many girls get their hearts get broken because of this.

I have read of past CP programs where many people did hardcore drugs. I did not see any hardcore drugs in my 7 months. I did see people smoke weed, which I stayed away. I did drink and I know over half of people under 21 got drunk. If you are over 21, you can drink, but housing rules state not to be drinking around people under 21. If you live in an apartment with anyone under 21, you cannot have alcohol. If you want to drink in your apartment, make sure people are 21 and older. I partied with people under 21, just be extremely careful, if you are caught, you are termed. If you are under 21, make sure you do not have anything, even empty bottles in your apartment. If you are drinking and you are under 21 do not have parties, do not be loud, I suggest to drink off Disney property (that is anywhere Disney property, hotel, parks, etc.).

Here is the housing situation, I think Disney takes advantage of CP’s here. Vista Way, was the original apartment complex, hence the older one. Vista is known as the party apartment complex. I lived in Chatham, which is slowly becoming a big party apartment complex. Patterson, during my time, was called the “Retirement Community”, it was quite and the fourth one, I forgot the name, is just for the international CP’s, however internationals can live at any four apartment complexes. If you want to party, I suggest living in Vista or Chatham. Chatham is much nicer because as I stated, Vista is the original apartment complex, meaning it is not as nice and there are problems with the building. The problem I see is, Disney would take out about total of 370 to 400 dollars out of your checks in a month total. That went to rent, internet, cable, water and electricity. Yes, for all of that, it is ok, however I can go around the area and find rent for about that, most likely you will pay a little more for utilities. I do not want to sound like a stereotypical Millennial “crying” about something but, both Patterson and Chatham, were given to Disney for free, as a gift, by Coke Cola. I know Disney is a business, meaning profits, but I just felt taken advantage of. Disney is one of the richest companies in the world, paying CP’s little money, which I did not mind, you get paid for your services and many people can hit a button for a ride, but rent I believe was high. Apartments have one bedroom (two people), two bedrooms (four people), three bedrooms (6 people) and four bedrooms (eight people) set ups. I suggest getting two bedroom, because they have enough space, you will meet people and you will not have too many roommates. It is like freshman year of college, you share a room and bathroom with another person, with a twin size bed. There is a kitchen, living room and most people will have a balcony. The only apartment that gets more than one refrigerator is the four bedroom, another reason to avoid three bedroom. Each complex and room size have different prices, if you are trying to save money, get a bigger apartment at Vista. The apartment complexes have nice pools, their gyms are ok (treadmills, dumbbells, few other equipment, sand volleyball courts), basketball courts and Patterson has a free car washing station, also check out Mickey’s Retreat across Chatham, there is a soccer and softball field with some other things to do. There is a way to get out of CP housing, you just have to prove that you have housing in Orlando, but I feel you lose the experience of the CP housing. CP housing has events for CP’s on the property where you can meet people.

The biggest issue I read about and had on the program was housing security. A big turn off when I read about the college program, before I decided to do it, was security. Overall, I had a decent experience with the security. Some of them were not professional, had bad attitudes, maybe working more than one job, so are overworked and tired. A couple were power hungry, which is never good, and act like real police officers. There was one night where I had a problem with security. I was bringing up my groceries from my car and my door was cracked open. I heard a knock and open the door, they said “do you know your door is open” and I always answer people politely, and this question did not bother me. If my door was open and I did not know, I would want someone to tell me. The thing that upset me was, I had my soccer cleats outside my door to get fresh air, because I did not have a balcony. They go “you know your cleats have been outside for a while”, well yea (was what I was thinking) and they said, “you should bring them in or they will get stolen,” I said, “well I need them to have fresh air so they will not make my apartment smell and I respect my roommates and guest that come over to do that.” They both looked at me, and basically tried to force me to bring it in the apartment and asked, “are you not afraid for them to get stolen?” I said, “well I do not want that to happen but they are old, so if they do get stolen it won’t be a big deal,” which most people would not want to steal old pair of shoes. FYI, There’s no rules in the handbook that state I can have anything outside my door. If they do get stolen it is not a huge deal, “So you don’t care”, some of the security guys had thick skulls and cannot not comprehend. They stood there for a while and I said well I need to go before I burn my food, goodnight. I heard a story where two CP’s were throwing a football and busted a light and got termed the next day. I heard other horror stories. Basically, Disney wants to fire people, so they can cut the number down, they thrive on the turn over right. This is not to scare you, but warn you to be careful. However, besides underage drinking, I never knew or heard anyone during my program get termed for anything else at the housing apartments. The major thing I did not enjoy was, you could not have guest that were non CP’s at your apartment after midnight, including family. I know this is for safety reasons, but if I am paying rent why cannot I have at least family stay over? However, I knew people that snuck people in, in their car and into their apartment for the night and I had another friend have his friends climb the fence and let them stay in his apartment for the night. If you are caught doing this you will be termed, so be careful. Also realize, that breaking these rules can hurt your roommates.

I did not take classes, from what I was told, they are a joke and most colleges do not accept them as college credits. Unless your college takes them as credits, I would avoid them. They give homework.

I loved my program and most of my friends loved it also. Most the people I knew, including myself, loved it not so much that we worked for Disney, but our lifestyle and the people you meet.

Even though Disney calls this an internship, for the most part, I would not consider it an internship, unless you are majoring in hospitality, recreation, fields related or trying to get into that field, because honestly, it is a regular hourly service job. I wrote down Guest Relations Intern on my resume. Yes, that was not my job title, but every job at Disney Parks focuses on guest first, your role it is to focus on guest. I fit description that would build resume. Take it as you will, hopefully this will help some of you. I suggest, not only at Disney but in life, to network, network, network, you never know what co-worker or boss can help you in the long run.

My typical week would be working, going to the parks, road trips to the beach, colleges or other Florida cities, doing things around Orlando like Universal and partying. I have made life long friends, including a few who I can call my best friends. If I had to redo life, I would do this again. I had no regrets! So, if you are thinking about doing this, I highly suggest it. I have had many life experiences, from traveling, living in another country, college, and along with those, this was a fun time. I would not do it twice (once was enough), I know a few people who do the college program twice. If I was going to do it again, I would have done Professional Internship, which is a real internship program. As I said though, it was a great experience and I would not give it up! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me below or message me.

17 responses to “The Disney College Program (DCP) Experience

    • Very strict, (as I stated in my article) if you are caught, you will be termed. Even if your roommates had no part about you bringing guest over and letting them stay, they have a chance of being termed. Just know that if you risk it. But I said, I know times, people had people stay over the night from different CP complexes, non DCP and didn’t get caught. But I know one that did, and she was termed and it was her roommate that brought the person over, but since she was in the same apartment she was termed. Most the people I knew that did it, were smart, didn’t act like idiots or draw attentions to themselves.

  1. I’m working as a Character Attendant this spring with Disney Entertainment and I am an acting major. I’m taking a leave of absense from my school rather than paying for credits, not because they won’t give me credit (they would have), but because I would rather have it for the experience. My question is, do you consider the Entertainment roles to be beneficial, and to be considered an internship?

    Thanks!

    • First, thank you for taking the time to read my article! I think it is important to ask many people this question, including classmates, professors and people in the acting profession. The only experience I have with acting is taking a basic theatre class in college and interning with a local TV news station in college. I also do not know what kind of acting you’re interested in, but we will go with general acting, i.e theatre, TV, film, etc.

      From an average point of view of a casting director, I might say no, but I believe it is how you word it in your resume and what you get out of the experience, and networking!

      Examples, since finishing DCP and college, I am in the communications field. I looked at my position at Disney and made it fit to any position I applied to. My role, and most at Disney, are heavily guest relations, which I used my advantage in a PR position. Keep a journal and write down what you did at work, especially write down the things that relate to acting.

      “What you get out of your experience”, by that I mean, volunteer and pick up shifts, if you can, it other departments. I know anyone can pick up parade shifts, this will let you learn more and network. If they offer a free class, def take it. As a cast member, you can go anywhere back stage, including dressing rooms for shows. Ask your coordinator if you can have a meet and greet with a stage actor. Meet and greet is where you can meet a person and ask them about their job and how they got there, tips, ask them if they can set you up another meet and greet, etc., or you could maybe go to the backstage and try asking yourself. All of this goes to networking, def take advantage of it! It’s amazing how people are tied to other people. Some people will not be willing to help, others will be!

      Joining Linkedin (professional social media) will be very helpful! Also, you could do this role, and before your program ends, apply for a professional internship or apply to PI (professional internship) before you graduate or right after your graduate, great way to grow professional, as a person and meet people. DCP will def look good if you apply for professional internship. Also, you could try out as a character (goofy to a princess, etc.) during DCP. I know a little bit of the process but not 100%.

      I am glad I did the program and I wish I did the professional internship, I knew many that did, some work at corporate now. It all depends what you take fro the program. I suggest making a Pros/Cons list of doing the program and not doing the program after gathering the information for the program. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! You can e-mail me at PSULionz7@aol.com also. Hope that helps a little!

  2. Hey, great article! I was just wondering if you could email me about how your managers helped you out with real world references and stuff. I’ve always dreamed of being an imagineer and thought the DCP would be a good kick off point to get into the organization. However from the different things I’ve read and watched in vlogs, it looks like the opportunities to meet higher ups is non existent, rare at the most.

  3. hi! very informative article. I’m doing the program this year and was wondering how much free time you get. will i be able to go to miami and other places or no?

    • Thanks for reading my article!
      It depends on your role, I had good amount free time. Also, you can give your shift away and people, mostly likely, will pick up the shift. There were people that always wanted to pick up shifts in my position, but I can’t speak for everyone and it was three years ago, but you should have some free time and you can always ask off for days to take trips.

  4. Hi there! So I just finished my junior year of college and plan on applying this coming fall for the Spring 2016 session, so my senior spring semester like you. My question is, do they let you leave to go back to school for graduation? Because that has been a concern for me for awhile. I would hate to miss walking for my own graduation, and I’d also like to see my twin sister walk for hers at a different university probably a different weekend. So are you allowed to leave for something like that and if so, how long can you get away with being gone??

    • Tess, thanks for reading my article! They will let you go back home for graduation, myself and many others had no problem asking off. There will be no problem. Make sure you ask off, also, if they don’t give you the full days, just give your shift(s) away and if anything, you could call out a few days for personal days. If you have any other questions, feel free to e-mail me (psulionz7@aol.com), make sure you put DCP on subject in case it goes to spam.

  5. I have a lot of medical issues. None that hinder my ability to work more like I might miss a few days of work for dr.s appointments or I might have to take a break if I get sick in the job. Are the managers understanding of these kinds of situations? Also my a major is animation and I was wondering if this would be a good way to get my foot in the door with the Disney company?

    • The managers and coord’s might be understanding by Disney policy for CP’s in general, not sure. You would want to talk to the recruiter when they interview you, or if you get the interview. CP could help get your foot in the door if you could network well enough. It should be in the program in California however, you should look at the professional internships.

  6. Hi! This was a great article. Thank you so much for posting it! I’m going into the college program in the fall and I’m pretty nervous but also really excited about it. But my question is, is it true that some of the apartment rooms are boy/girl? Because I don’t think I could stay in a room with guys. That would be really awkward for me.

  7. I was offered a position as a lifeguard and I was wondering if lifeguards are allowed any tattoos. I know that you wear a polo shirt and shorts over your bathing suit while working so is it okay to have a tattoo that would be covered by that or are you not allowed to?

  8. Hello this article was very helpful and even makes me want to join. I wanted to know because you said that you spent your time in the parks, did you have to buy a ticket or did you get to for free since you were in the DCP?

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