What I Wish I’d Known About the Disney College Program

Thinking about applying to the DCP? Here are some helpful tips I wish I would have known:

*Note: my experience is specific to the Disneyland program in California working in attractions*

Pay. I knew a good number of participants before I applied, and they all told me the DCP is something you do for the experience rather than money because the pay is horrible. I accepted that and didn’t ask any further questions, so somehow I was under the impression that everyone in the program is paid the same rate and works the same number of hours. This is not true. Attractions is one of the lowest paid roles, and had I known I would have preferenced other roles higher when applying. Even if you love your job, it does get to you once you find out lots of participants are making more than you while you’re all paying the same rent.

Scheduling. You’re told you have to be fully available to be in the program, and that really isn’t true. The college program doesn’t make your schedule, the schedulers in your area do, and most people that work at Disneyland have a second job, so you can too if you want/need. People are always willing to trade shifts so take advantage of that. If you get sick, need a personal day, want to go visit family, etc. you can ask for days off or call out just like at any other job.

Scheduling at the Disneyland Resort is done by seniority, so the longer you’ve been working there the higher priority your preferences get. As college program, you get about 3 years seniority so you’re regularly scheduled enough hours to pay rent, but be aware this changes based on time of year. I did my program in the fall (August-January), and my first few weeks I was only given about 22 hours a week. After that it raised to 30, and once the holidays began I got 40.

Another thing to be prepared for is your post training schedule – this lasts for about 2 weeks after being signed off for your attraction when your schedule will just say “post training” and you have to call scheduling every single day to find out where/when you’ll be working. It’s incredibly stressful and incredibly annoying and I was constantly worried I wouldn’t get enough hours because sometimes only 4 hour shifts were available.

Living conditions. It is listed on the website that housing consists of studios, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom apartments, accommodating up to 5 participants (that’s 2 in a studio, 3 in a 1 bedroom, or 5 in a 2 bedroom). Originally I chose the 2 bedroom, logic being I would have more bedroom space, but I completely overlooked the  difficulty of sharing a fridge with 5 people vs. 3, so keep that in mind. I ended up with a hateful racist roommate so I got to move to a 1 bedroom halfway through the program, and I had way more space in the kitchen, living room, and bathroom, which was amazing.

There is no official roommate selection process like most colleges have, so it’s either completely random, or you can find people on the Facebook page and choose to live together. Caution: I found my roommates on the Facebook page and they seemed great until I actually lived with them…and when I moved my random roommates were a massive improvement. So that part is hit or miss.

The apartments come stocked with dishes and cookware, but everything is stained from calcium buildup in the dishwasher which makes it look gross and unclean. If you’re a neat freak like me, I definitely recommend getting your own dishes and hand washing everything.

You also get a washer/dryer, but the dryer takes about an hour and a half to actually dry anything, so I recommend doing laundry often and in tiny loads.

Participants. It’s called the “college” program for a reason. Almost every person I encountered in the program was extremely immature, especially a good number of the girls were catty and gossipy and it felt like high school. I made most of my friends outside of the college program at my attraction, and those are the amazing people I spent all of my time with who became my family.

The program is not well known within The Walt Disney Company. I applied to the college program because it got me to California, and I figured there would be some connections with ABC Television Group since it’s a division of Disney and I REALLY want to work there one day. It took a TON of networking and about 2 months, but I did finally get a couple meetings at ABC, and I spent half of each meeting explaining to them what the college program was and what I was doing there. The same thing happened when I went to the studios, and when I friend of mine went to ESPN. So when the college program staff tells you how great it looks on your resume…I don’t believe that. No matter how much you embellish it, you worked at an amusement park. I wouldn’t bother calling it an internship on your resume because I got called out for that in so many job interviews and once they prodded me further to explain the program they were like yeah that’s not an internship, and honestly I couldn’t disagree.

Find magic in your own way. This post was focused on the negatives solely because they are the major things that I could have better prepared for so they would not have impacted my program so much. I will say that just like college, the college program is what you make of it. I spent so much of my free time trying to network my way to the studios, that whenever I had a day off I was driving to Burbank and taking meetings instead of going to the DCP events, so I wasn’t really able to enjoy the program. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who has parents paying their rent and giving them a ton of money to go to concerts and Medieval Times and Universal, take advantage of your free park admission because 4.5 months does fly by. Definitely get to know the people in your work area as well as you can, espeically if you work during the holidays because that will be your holiday family!

Feel free to contact with any questions 🙂

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