By Morgan Matrone
Ever since I was a freshman in high school, I have wanted to do the Disney College Program. Now as a sophomore in college, my dream has finally come true, but I realized, not a lot of people know about the Disney College Program. Also there are specific pieces of vocabulary you have to know– cast members are simply any employe at Disney and roles are your job.
The Disney College Program is an internship program at you guessed– Disney. You can apply to work at either Walt Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland in California. I worked at Disney World in Orlando and spent six months down there.
The application process is long and anxiety inducing as they read every single application that comes through. Every application is hand picked by current cast members. I applied in August when applications opened and got my phone interview in early October. I did not know I had been accepted until the second week of November. I was over the moon excited. I had been dreaming of that day for years. The next step was to figure out my arrival date. I chose Jan. 28 because it was the soonest I could get there.
I received my role as soon as I was accepted into the program. I got Quick Service Food and Beverage, which meant I could be working at any fast food esque restaurant across Disney property inside or outside. I managed to get one of the best work locations across property, which was Sunshine Seasons in Epcot. I know what you are thinking, “Where in the world is that?” Honestly, so was I. But turns out, if you have ever been to Epcot, you have probably passed right by it without even knowing it. We like to call Sunshine Seasons Soarin’s lobby as we are the huge cafeteria area right in front of Soarin inside the Land Pavilion. Once I was finished paying all of the fees, the fun began.
It was time to find roommates. I joined a few Racebook pages, and in one of them, I found a girl named Hope who was just about the chillest and nicest human being I had met, and from there, we found two other girls– Becca and Brianna. At the end of it all, I ended up rooming with just Hope, but Brianna and Becca ended up with four other roommates.
Our rent was through the roof. We were paying $195 a week out of our paycheck for rent. During the college program, you are paid every week and your rent is automatically taken out of your paycheck. You can work anywhere from 25-36 hours per week, but Disney is only required to schedule you enough to make rent. So, for the first half of my program, I was hardly making any money because my rent was so expensive and did not have a lot of hours. During the program, not only did I work but I also took classes online through the university as well as Disney seminars through their housing programs.
I took two seminars. One was Leadership 101 and the other was about communications in these seminars. I learned what Disney looks for in potential cast members as well as how to market myself to the company. However, my life was not just work and school. I also got to go play in the parks for free. Yup, all Disney cast members get into all of the parks for free, and it is not just limited to the park I worked at. If I were to stay with the company, I would have had free admittance into Disneyland California, Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Unfortunately, I did not have the time or money to make it out to California because we were blocked out most of my program due to the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars land that has just officially opened in Orlando but opened at Disneyland in May.
Speaking of Galaxy’s Edge, I was lucky enough that one of my best friends from the program took me to her cast preview, and I got to see the whole area and ride Smugglers Run before it officially opened. I rode the ride when it was only a twenty five minute wait opening day. Smugglers Run’s wait time was at three hundred minutes later on that day, so needless to say, it is gonna be awhile before it is ever back down to a twenty five minute wait.
Throughout the program, I had my doubts about staying as long as I did– especially with taking as many classes as I did. I took two classes in the spring and four in the summer. It was intense trying to balance everything, but I’m glad I managed it all. Honestly I had the time of my life on this program and genuinely do not know what I would have done without it. I have made some life-long friendships that without them, I could not have gotten through the program. I made great connections with leaders and coordinators. Honestly, I cannot wait to go back to Disney once I finish my degree. I have dreamt of working for Disney all of my life, and now, it feels like my dreams are finally coming true.