Now that I've finally announced my big news about participating in the Disney College Program this fall, we can get started with the myriad of topics relating to the experience, even if I haven't actually arrived at Disney yet! In fact, you wouldn't believe just how much of an experience the months leading up to the Disney College Program can be, from deciding to apply to the application process to roommate gifts and a packing list. There's a lot to cover, and some of it comes long before applications drop.
I first learned about the Disney College Program well before I was even looking at colleges to attend in the fall of 2013. As far as I can remember, the first time I really decided that maybe I'd like to look into doing the program was during an included breakfast on a tour at Animal Kingdom my Dad and I took years ago. We ended up being the only ones on the tour and spent a good portion of the meal discussing the college program and professional internships with our tour guide. Of course, I'm not sure I was truly serious about it back then, because it wasn't until my senior year of high school that I really decided that I wanted to pursue a career with the Disney company, but it's still important to note that for some, dreams of the Disney College Program go pretty far back.
Now, whenever I tell people I'm going to go work for Disney as a part of the DCP, it's almost guaranteed that they'll ask me what that's about. By definition, the Disney College Program is a semester-long paid internship at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Students work in a front-line role at the theme parks and resorts, participate in college-level coursework, and live in company-sponsored housing with other students from around the globe. Applicants must be enrolled in a college or university during the semester prior to participation, meaning you can graduate from college and participate the following semester (which is what I'm doing), and for those who are heading back to school at the conclusion of their program, college credit may be available.
Knowing I wanted to do the program, I immediately asked the study abroad rep at my college during my freshman orientation, only to find out that, unfortunately, my school does not award credit for doing the program, meaning that I'd basically take a semester off to go to Florida or complete a full semester of classes online in addition to the workload in the parks. In addition, as a Music Performance major, I was required to take lessons every semester, meaning I would have had to find a way to take lessons while away to stay on track.
This left me with one option: put all my eggs in one basket and apply for the college program for the semester after graduation. I'll say with complete honesty that it felt like jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge in regards to the risk I was taking. I had no plans whatsoever if the DCP fell through, not wanting to waste hundreds of dollars on applications for grad school if I was going to pursue Disney instead. I felt like I had a pretty good shot of getting accepted, but I have a friend who is perfectly suited for the Disney College Program who was in the same boat as me, applying for the semester after she graduated, and she didn't get in. It's a risk, it's terrifying, but if it's something you really want to do, absolutely just go for it.
If you want to apply for a semester in the midst of your college career, apply early. Some are accepted the first time through, and some apply four or five times with no luck, so since you can start applying during your first semester (to participate your second semester), start right away. You never know what will happen!
If you're in the same boat as me, jumping into a sea of sharks, know that the Disney College Program is incredibly competitive, and many use it as a jumping off point to start a further career with Disney. That means that, for those of us applying for after graduation, you have to make sure you stand out from everyone else. Because I knew that I wouldn't be able to apply until my final semester, I spent my four years of college building on the foundation I'd set and gaining relevant experience. I did my research and looked at what roles might fit me best, and then sought out opportunities that would make me a better candidate. In fact, almost everything I've done over the past four years has been with the DCP in mind, and while it won't guarantee you'll get in, it certainly won't hurt because even if you don't, it'll make you more qualified for whatever the next step after graduation ends up being.
For more information on the Disney College Program, check out the official website, and check in every Wednesday for a new blog post focused on my DCP Experience!
Have a magical day!