Once upon a time, I was an intern at Walt Disney World, and I’m here to share my experiences with you.
Interning at Walt Disney World sounds like an absolute dream come true, and to a certain extent, it is. But, there’s a lot you should know if you’re considering becoming a cast member.
How it all began
It all started at a career fair on my college campus. I went with a friend for moral support and had no intention of applying for anything myself. Then, I saw it, a booth surrounded by balloons shaped like Mickey Mouse. I had to see what that was all about.
After speaking with one of the Disney representatives, I couldn’t wait to apply. It sounded like an opportunity of a lifetime for a Disney fanatic like myself.
The Disney College Program application
The online application was simple and straightforward — asking about past experiences and future goals.
To even be considered, I had to first meet a few requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Must be currently enrolled and have completed at least one college semester or have graduated within the past 12-months
- Be within good standing with your college, including a minimum GPA of 2.0
- Have unrestricted work authorization
The Disney College Program interview
After filling out an application, if you make it to the next level, someone will contact you to schedule a phone interview.
Phone interviews can be quite nerve-wracking because you have to dazzle the interviewer and be able to accurately and successfully present yourself over the phone.
To be honest, I was so excited and nervous during my interview. I don’t fully remember everything. But, what I can suggest is to be yourself. Know your skills and what you have you to offer, and boast them proudly through your answers.
You can prepare for your interview with sample questions on Disney blogs like this one.
After the interview, I was optimistic but scared. Only 20% of students interviewed are chosen, and at this point, I had never wanted something so badly.
It took about a week before I heard back and was offered the internship. It was late November, and I was going to start in mid-January! I had to pay $100 to reserve my spot. That fee has now risen to $390.
One thing to note is, when I was offered the internship, I had no idea what I would actually be doing. I didn’t find that out until I arrived.
Moving to Florida
Disney does not cover any moving expenses. So, figuring out how to move to the other side of the country and paying for hotels, gas, and food were all things I had to cover on my own.
I used websites to estimate how much gas would cost and either booked hotels in advance or planned to stay with friends along the way.
Before making the drive, my dad made sure I knew how to pop my hood, change a tire, and properly read gauges if something happened on my drive. Luckily, my trip was uneventful (except for the speeding tickets in Texas. Seriously, I felt like Texas went on forever!).
Moving into Disney housing
One great perk about the Disney College Program is that you get to live on Disney property. All bills are directly deducted from your weekly paycheck, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of anything.
I opted to live in Vista Way, which is the least expensive housing option. While it was older than the other properties, I loved living there.
Currently, CP’s (this is what they call members of the Disney College Program) can get matched with roommates before moving. But, when I joined, I was assigned to live with the girls that checked in right in front of me.
There were six of us living in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. Living in such close quarters with strangers was an adjustment.
If I’m honest, my first roommate assignment was NOT a success. Luckily, Disney understands this, and I was able to get me moved into a different apartment within 24-hours of filing a complaint.
Disney College Program training
Once settled in, it was time for training to begin. The first part of the training is called Traditions. I don’t want to spoil anything, but during this time, you’ll learn all about Disney Magic.
One of the most exciting things I learned during Traditions was that no matter what someone’s position is within the Disney company, they are required to work for two-weeks inside one of the parks.
They require corporate employees to work in the park serving ice cream, doing janitorial work, or even operating a ride to experience the magic first-hand. This rule was put into practice to show that every employee is an important part of the company — that no employee is more important than another.
That means even Robert Allen Iger, the president of Disney, spends two weeks a year working inside the park.
Traditions is a formal training process, so be sure to pack interview/business attire.
Once Traditions is finished, you’ll receive your work assignment, and the real excitement begins.
Regardless of your work assignment, you’ll have to wear some type of costume. There is a humongous costuming building where you’re measured and pick-up your clothes.
This is where you’ll pick up all of your costumes and drop off your laundry. Disney is very strict about preserving the magic. When arriving at work each day, management will make sure you’ve dressed appropriately and that your costume is clean and pressed.
If you’re not up to Disney standards, you’ll be sent back to costuming before you’re able to begin your day.
One of the great things about the costuming department is that you never have to worry about cleaning or pressing your own work clothes.
What I wish I knew before I joined the Disney College Program
While I LOVED my program and now look back fondly at the memories and experiences, I have to let you know that it was also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I, along with other CP’s, loving referred to our work as “being a slave to the Mouse.”
Here are some things I wish I knew before I became a CP:
- Disney is a union-run company, and while full-time employees have caps on how much they can work, interns AKA Disney College Program Members, do not.
- CP’s assigned to work in the Magic Kingdom get paid the most, and the Magic Kingdom has the longest hours, so CPs can work more other hours than those in different parks or hotels.
- Take in the magic every day. Make time to watch the fireworks. Sit next to the Trevi Fountain in Epcot’s Italy and enjoy a decadent dessert.
- Attend group functions! There are so many activities for CP’s, and while you may feel dorky DON’T! You’ll meet some amazing people and have a great time.
- Use your Disney discount EVERYWHERE. Disney employees can skip the line at places like House of Blues and get discounts and many restaurants in the Orlando area.
- Don’t work too much; make sure to keep time for yourself to experience everything you can.
- Take day trips to Daytona Beach and Clearwater Beach – those were two of my favorite beaches to visit.
- Go to the parks as much as you can. There are always new things to see and experience.
- Take advantage of volunteer opportunities with programs like Give Kids The World and The Make a Wish Foundation.
I’ll say it a million times, becoming a cast member, and being part of the Disney College Program is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Not only did I make friends that I still talk to and see 10-years later, but I learned so much.
Having the Disney College Program on my resume helped me get my first job. After being hired, I was told that was what put me ahead of another candidate.