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The Walt Disney World College Program is a U.S.marker national internship program operated by The Walt Disney Company, located at the Walt Disney World Resortmarker. The Walt Disney World College Program recruits students (18 years and older) and all majors for a semester-long paid internship program working at the Walt Disney World Resort.


The first Walt Disney World College Program began in 1981. In the early days, the College Program consisted of just over 200 students from 20 schools working in only one theme park, the Magic Kingdommarker. At that time it was known as "The Magic Kingdom College Program". In 1983, program participants could work at Epcot as well as the Magic Kingdom and the program was known as "The Walt Disney World College Program", employing approximately 500 college students each 3-month spring, summer and fall session. From the beginning of the program until 1988, almost all program participants stayed in an off-property mobile home park called "Snow White Village Campground" (the remainder in Lake Vista Village apartments) in Kissimmee, Floridamarker. 1988 saw the opening of Vista Way apartments, which were much closer to the participant's employment. Following the resort's massive growth in the 1990s and the widespread popularity of the internet, the College Program has grown substantially, seeing three new participant housing complexes built and many more colleges represented. As of 2005, 8,000 students have participated each year representing at least 301 colleges and universities with an average of 4,000 students at any given time.

In the Fall of 2004, student opportunities at Disneylandmarker were combined with the opportunities available at Walt Disney World and the program was renamed to the Disney Theme Parks and Resorts College Program. Currently, the program is being promoted as simply the Disney College Program.

Application process

Students who apply to the program are given the option of one of several program seasons throughout the year, each usually lasting between five and seven months, though the culinary session length is dependent upon the student's school schedule.

To be considered for the program, each student must attend an information session about the program or view the same session online. Afterwards, students participate in a web-based interview. Students who are selected to proceed beyond the interview can interview over the telephone. Here the students inform recruiters of the positions in which they would be interested in working while attending the program. Some of these positions (or roles) are food and beverage, attractions, custodial, hospitality, and character work. If a student chooses to do character work, he or she must attend one of several regional auditions. Beginning in 2005, Disney offered an online presentation to better accommodate students' schedules for the live information sessions.

If the student has been accepted, they will receive an acceptance letter within three to six weeks of the interview, which must be replied to in order to secure a spot in the program.

Program information

At the beginning of the program in the early 80s, three "experiences" were emphasized: "The Learning Experience", which involved participation in Disney's "Leisure Time Business Management Studies", "The Work Experience" which included work in 4 major areas of the resort, and "The Recreational Experience" which emphasized recreational activities and Disney-sponsored events. Since that time, the experiences have changed slightly to "living", "learning" and "earning".

The "Living" experience is similar to the program's original "Recreational" experience. Once the student has accepted their position with Disney, they can stay in one of four, company sponsored housing units near Walt Disney World Resort during the duration of the program: Vista Way, Chatham Square, Patterson Court, and The Commons (which houses mainly international Cast Members).

The "Learning" experience began in the early 80s as a group of 9 seminars on the "philosophies and operating practices" of the various sections of Walt Disney World's business. It has grown to include 8 different courses, each focusing on a Disney topic, rather than a business area. Student are required to do textbook readings, write term papers and participate on projects. The program also offers "job shadowing" for students on days they are not working. Students can follow and witness Disney employees whose careers are similar to the student's major.

The "Earning" experience consists of students working within the Walt Disney World Resort. At the program's inception, students were expected to work in one of 4 "major operating areas": Food, Merchandise, Attractions, and Custodial. Currently, Walt Disney World College Program students work in many areas.

Depending on the requirements of a student's school, internship credit may be earned.


College Program graduates can apply for Disney's professional internships that are in a field related to the students' major. The professional internship program is also available for college graduates in the semester following their graduation.

Some alumni keep in touch with each other after the program and attend reunions across the country. In October 1997, Disney held a 15 year reunion for all College Program alumni at Walt Disney World.

In the early 1990s, John M. Best and Jeffrey R. Rudeen edited two College Program alumni postal newsletters. The Disney-sponsored "Disney College Programs Alumni News" (later renamed to "Alumni News") was a quarterly newsletter that focused on news about Disney's parks and resorts, while the unofficial quarterly "College Program Alumni Newsletter" focused on stories involving alumni and reunions. The newsletters continued throughout the 90s. Today, alums can subscribe to Disney's alumni email newsletter from their College Program website.

Until January 2005, Disney allowed returning alumni (as seasonal Cast Members) to stay in College Program housing. Due to the growth of the program, Disney discontinued the housing perk and started an alumni-only summer program for past College Program participants to return for select roles during the summer, the first session held from May to August. In 2009, there was such high interest in the program that they stopped accepting applications after less than a month


Critics argue that Disney is using the program as a source of cheap labor, as interns do the same work as veteran employees, but at a significantly lower pay rate. In late 2007, a permanent Cast Member ran for president of the local union in Orlando. Part of his platform intended to get rid of the Disney College program, claiming that the program "imports thousands of low-wage earners every year to work for Disney, depressing the local employment market and keeping wages down." Disney responded that the program is beneficial in the recruitment of cast members and that 8,000 workers out of 62,000 do not greatly impact operations.

See also


  1. {{cite news |url=} |title=Disney College Program E-Presentation}}

External links

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