Disney College Program

Disney College ProgramHi guys! A LOT of people get excited when they hear I worked for Disney World. They get even more excited to find out that it was a program through my college, meaning I got to live and work with Mickey for a semester! I get butterflies thinking about my experience as a CP (college programmer) and it was 8 years ago. If there was one time of my life that I wish I could share with all my favorite people, without a doubt, it would be my semester in Disney. Honestly, I did share it with (at the time) all my favorite people because I had a ton of visitors and the friendships I made in the Disney College Program are everlasting. It was a life changing experience.
I’m not sure where to start because I’ve gotten so many different questions about my time in the Disney College Program. The first question everyone asks me: ‘Were you a Princess?!’ Thankfully, no. I think it would be AMAZING to see the love and wonder of all the kids when you walk out on stage (anywhere public in Disney)! I also realize that I would not be a very sweet princess if I was sweating to death, my makeup was running and my feet hurt from walking in heels all day. Another reason why I didn’t pursue my acting career, in order to be a Princess (or any other character), you have to work for at least a semester, plus a summer, and I already had a job lined up for the following summer.
I had, in my opinion, the BEST job that a CP can have. Ride Operations. I specifically loved my area (Fantasyland, Pooh Side) because of the awesome people I worked with and how excited kids were to ride my rides. I worked Snow White’s Scary Adventures (no longer there), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups. There are different stations of each ride I’d rotate through during my shift. My favorite position was called Pooh Grouper which was on Winnie the Pooh. Pooh Grouper was in charge of keeping the Fast Pass line flowing quickly and grouping people off to get into the honey pots. I got very efficient at this position which allowed me time to talk to the guests and make their days magical. I’d hand out fast passes to other rides, pin trade, help people plan their day or just learn about them and where they were from. Talking to the guests was, by far, my favorite part about the entire experience.

roomies-locationsHousing is the second questions everyone asks about. When I worked there in 2006, there were two apartment complexes that they split all the CPs into. The security was hard core so I always felt safe living there, no matter what time I got off work (often 3 and 4 in the morning.) I had turned 21 the day before leaving for the program so, thankfully, I was placed in a 21+ apartment. My apartment at Vista Way had 6 girls, one kitchen, two bathrooms. It was tough at first. Thankfully, things worked out pretty well because some of my roommates left for work at 4am, others had mid-day shifts and some of us had evening shifts. We never really ran into problems of not having enough space or trying to cook or shower at the same time. I loved how you meet people from everywhere in the world in this program. My roommates were from all over the US and a couple were from out of the country.

abbynePaychecks are always the next topic of discussion. Let’s just say you’re not going to make it big by working as a CP. Honestly, I don’t remember what I got paid, but I think it was pretty close to minimum wage for FL. I kept my house at Purdue, so I was paying rent for two places while I was at Disney, which stretched my paycheck to nothing. Thankfully, I took out two student loans before leaving for Disney, to make sure I didn’t have to be stressed out about the level of comfort I wanted while in the program. I had season passes to Universal Studios and was able to get into the Disney parks free. I was never bored. Ever. I had enough money to go out to nice restaurants when people would visit me, IHOP for breakfast after my shift at 4a and a few trips to the beach.

monorail1A lot of people ask about if I got held back a semester by working there. Yes, I did, but a lot of CPs take college courses through Disney University. Purdue didn’t accept the credit transfers so I did not take any classes while there. My roommate, on the other hand, took a full load during her semester so she wasn’t put back a semester. I’m glad Purdue didn’t take the credits because I would have felt the need to take a full load and would have missed out on a ton of experiences.

CIMG0647My family was a bit weary of me working in Disney for fear of losing the magic. Didn’t happen. I have a stronger love for Disney now that I’ve worked there and I still think it’s the most magical place on earth!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAtower-of-terrorhighlightercicitatibrittest-trackWhat else did I do besides work? Lots! I can hardly remember my time spent at work because it seems like there was so much time spent not working (although it was 50/50.) One of the best things you can do as a CP is to make friends with people who have cars. Living in the apartments, you have 24/7 access to WalMart and all of Disney’s property. I had a few friends who had cars and we’d go to BW3s for karaoke, the beach, and visit restaurants and bars in Orlando. Most of our time was spent on Disney property though. We went to Pleasure Island (no longer bars and night clubs) every Thursday to dance or listen to live bands. We’d go to Universal every other week. We’d pool hop at the Disney resorts (which was one of my favorite things to do because I’m a hospitality major and loved scoping out the rooms and customer service at the resorts.) We also spent a ton of time in the parks. We knew where to eat, what rides to get on during slow times and what shows to see. I was an expert by the time my friends and family started to come visit. We’d cook hometown meals for our roommates, learn salsa, go to CP dances, have highlighter parties at our apartment, play football, play tennis and visit Kennedy Space Center. Again, I was never bored.

morocokissstatueWas I not the luckiest girl, to work for The Mouse and meet some of my best friends to this day? I love sharing my experience with college kids looking to go into the program or other Disney fanatics! If you have any questions about the Disney College Program (application process, furnishing the apartment, travel, perks etc.) or Disney World vacations, I’d LOVE to help! PS, I’m super excited because a lot of us are going back to Disney in 2016 for our 10 year reunion! I’ve already seen all of the people in the photos above, plus a few others from my program, but we’ve not all been together since 2006.
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34 thoughts on “Disney College Program

  1. Wow, I had no idea Disney had this program! That’s really cool! So you are officially my Disney expert, wow wow wow. And I thought ride operators would be the most boring, but looks like you found the best part of it, interacting with visitors. Ride operators are “regular” theme parks look like they will die of boredom. Anyways, what a great experience! (Glad you recovered from that pretty gnarly sun burn!)

    1. It IS a real program and yes, I am a true expert! 😉 I agree about ‘carnies’ and always looking bored! I truly loved every second while I was at work other than the ride through by myself at closing for Snow White…it was scary!! I had a sunburn 75% of the time there, I laid by the pool almost every morning. 😉 haha!

  2. I am a sophomore in high school, and I have been researching the disney college program for later when I am in college. But I have a lot of questions about it, like what exactly do you get to do working at the rides and what about merchandising?

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I’m glad you’re interested in Disney’s College Program! I don’t know a lot about merchandising, as I didn’t work in that department, but I have a few friends who were in merch if you want them to contact you, let me know. For ride operations, you worked the rides. That’s really it! 🙂 You grouped people into the correct lines, loaded people onto the ride and waved them goodbye (the normal positions positions on each ride.) There are also other positions you may be rotated to if it’s a slow day, like sweeping the cue or making magical moments for guests. Disney University is where you can take college courses that may be applied to your college’s degree. My university did not accept college credit from Disney University but I had a roommate that did not get put behind a semester because she took a full load while at Disney. Send me an email at shelly.bergman13[at]gmail.com for any other questions you might have! I’d love to tell you more.

  3. I am a senior in high school and just found your blog about the DCP! I have been looking into this program and wondering what exactly you did and this helped me a lot! I have a couple questions… My first one was I know you mentioned that you would rather not have been a princess but do you know anything about that area of the college program? Also, I am religious and attend church every Sunday. Is disney flexible about that or is it manditory to work Sunday’s? Thank you for your post and your help!

    1. I’m excited that you’re looking into the DCP!! I think about it all the time. 🙂 Unfortunately the only thing I know about the princess/character position is you must extend your stay over summer (summer + semester.) I am not sure if Disney is flexible with giving every Sunday off. They may be willing to give the morning or evening shift off but as an intern you get the worst shift (opening sometimes at 4a or closing sometimes until 3a on special event dates.) You can go to the DCP site and ask a rep about their flexibility. Don’t let the crazy schedule deter you though!

  4. Shelly, I too was a CP at Disney back in 1996. I loved working at MK and am still great friends with so many from my college program. We too are all going back in 2016 to have a 20 year reunion. I met my husband while on the college program, my roommates from Vista Way are still my best friends, and we see each other often. It’s nice to hear that 10 years after my program ended, you and your friends had the same kind of experience. Working at Disney was one of my best memories and favorite points in my life. I will forever be grateful that I accepted that internship.

    1. I read this first thing this morning and it made me SO happy!!! I love hearing about other CP’s experiences..especially when they’re still friends with people from the program! Where in MK were you stationed? What ride from 96′ do you wish was still there?

  5. Hi! As of today I was just accepted into the Disney College Program! I am about to finish my sophomore year, and like you I will have to take a semester off school, because Ball State does not take the classes as credit! I am glad to hear from someone else who did the same thing! If you have any advice please let me know! I will be working in full service food/beverage! Thank you!

    1. CONGRATULATIONS REGAN!!!! Big deal! Shoot me an email to shelly.bergman13[@]gmail.com for ANY questions. I could literally talk on the phone to you for at least 3 hours on this topic so I would have no idea where to start on giving you advice/tips on the DCP!

  6. Hi there! I was also a CP in 2006 (January-May) and in one of your pictures above, there is a girl named Stephanie who worked with you in Fantasyland, and was my roommate. And I completely agree about being even more in love with Disney after the program and I’m taking my husband and stepdaughter for their first trip this fall!

    1. Small World (pun intended!) Where did you work for your CP? I think Stephanie and Kevin live in FL now and may work there again? I’m so excited you’re taking them on their first trip! When are you going? We’re taking our daughter on her first trip in Sept!

      1. I worked at Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter as Food & Beverage Quick Service. We were the ones dressed like Circus inspired Easter eggs lol. I haven’t heard from Stephanie since I received her wedding invitation, so I’m glad to hear she is doing well and that would be amazing to work at WDW again. I was accepted back for the alumni program but I had to turn it down 🙁
        Anywho, I am planning to take them in October when the weather is still nice and the lines are shorter. although I would have preferred to take them in February when its practically dean but I’m fearful of my stepdaughter getting snowed in and missing her flight to Orlando.
        How old is your daughter? I am still debating as whether to take my 2 year old son on this trip as well…

        1. Haha! The costumes in Disney are soooo flattering. 😉 We usually go the first week of October or first week of Sept. This year it’s Sept. My daughter will be 2 weeks under 2 years! Who KNOWS what we have in store for us because she’ll change so much by then. 🙂 I’d say it depends on him and if you want this trip to be centered around toddler or if you want to show them everything about Disney. He’ll definitely have other chances. 😉 I’ve started saving pins on my Disney pinterest board regarding toddlers if you’re interested. 🙂 https://www.pinterest.com/shellybergman/disney/

  7. Hey. I am going to apply for the spring 2016 program which opens up in august. I know you said that during your program you didn’t take any classes and i think that that is what i am going to do. I was just wondering how you did that with you schooling. I know you have to be taking college classes when you apply but is it ok to take a semester off while doing this or so you still have to be enrolled in college to be able to work there? Thanks for your help!

    1. FUN!!!! I was still a student at Purdue when I went to Disney but I took the semester off of school (I went my junior year.) You might ask your guidance counselor to double check the rules at your school though. I wouldn’t think they would have a problem with it, especially if you call it an internship (whether you’re taking Disney University classes or not.) I hope that helps!

  8. Hey! 2015 CP here! 🙂 it’s so funny reading this because virtually nothing has changed from what I read! I work the carousel, Philharmagic and Princess fairytale hall (what used to be SWSA) I completely agree with this post. I love my job and I’m going to be so sad to leave in a month because it’s been the most incredible experience! Can’t wait to come back for my second program 🙂

  9. Its so nice to see you still reminiscing on your experience at the DCP! I’m about to be a freshman in college and I’ve been thinking about doing the DCP for quite some time now just because I love Disney world so much. What are the odds of me actually getting into the program? I’m also applying to the program with a friend who’s a year older than me and goes to a different school. Is there a chance that we’ll both get in at the same time? Can I go into the program in my sophomore year or does it have to be during my junior year in college? Can you also talk about the perks of being in the program and any tips for my application in the future? Thank you in advance!

    1. I’m excited you’re wanting to be a DCP student! I’m not sure of the odds because I’m not sure what your background is or what you’re going to college to study. I went to University to study Hospitality Management and had good grades so there was a high chance for me to get in (even though I didn’t realize that at the time). That being said, no one I knew in the whole program was going to school for Hospitality Management so that degree is not required to be a DCP. There is a chance you can both get in at the same time if you both apply for the same semester! There’s a larger chance you might not ever get to see each other. I lived with 5 girls and all of us had such varying hours that we never got to hang out. I had one roomie that woke up at 4a to be at her 5a shift where I didn’t get off work until 3a sometimes (working EMH in Magic Kingdom). You can go into the program at any age while in college. I’m torn on what to recommend to people because a.) if you go as a younger student, you’ll have time to take a professional internship while you’re still in college (much easier than once you graduate) or b.) being 21 is helpful if you want to do things outside of being in Disney for your entertainment outside of working. When I was in the program, Pleasure Island was where I spent most of my Thursdays because I was old enough. You CAN NOT drink if you’re under 21 OR have association with friends that drink if you or them are under 21. I had a roommate get kicked out of the program the week before it ended because her friend who was visiting got caught drinking. They take it very seriously. The perks of being in the program: SO MANY! 1. Friendships that last a long time (I’ve gone to several weddings of people I was in the program with and still talk to them and go on trips with them). 2. Broadening your outlook on people. Disney has people visit from all over the world for the parks and the DCP. I loved learning about other people’s cultures and what they eat during my program. 3. You’ll never have the chance to have SO much fun for so long again. I had an awesome childhood, loved high school, had a wonderful experience in college and now get to stay home with my hilarious daughter…but in Disney every single day was awesome (even at work). 4. Close proximity to Universal, Sea World, Bush Gardens, downtown ORL and the beach…great opportunity to explore other places when off work. 5. Getting your friends and family in on discounts or for free. I had so many sets of loved ones come visit me over their vacations and it was so fun to show them my favorite parts of the parks! I gained a ton of knowledge on helping people do what they’d like most in the parks from all of those visits. Tips for your application: just keep trying. If you don’t get in your first try, there are 1000000 reasons it could be. Just try again. Also, be yourself. They know if you’ve looked up responses to their questions and will quickly pass you by. Show them how much you want it and what an asset you’ll be to them and you’ll get in. 🙂 I hope something in there helped! I’d love for you to let me know if/when you apply so I can follow along on your journey!

      1. Yes, but I mean there’s the actual costumes then there are ones where you have to wear business attire. Are they all costumes, or are they both costumes and business wear?

        1. Professional Internships (once you’ve gone through the College Program) may have professional wear. The closest you’ll get to business attire would be front desk at one of the luxury resorts or Guest Relations at one of the parks. All of the other park or resort jobs will have costumes. 🙂

          1. Thank you 🙂 I’m glad that I know that now lol. It didn’t really say on the website what the uniforms would be. But thank you again!

  10. Hey, Im a Purdue student too and I applied for the Fall 2016 program. I was wondering what did you do about school? Did you just not register for classes? Or is there something you need to do on mypurdue? I know some school count the internship as 12 credits so you’re technically still full time but Im not sure how Purdue does it, to maintain my school insurance, I would need to be at least part time I think?

    1. Hi Josephine! Congratulations on considering the DCP. Honestly, one of my happiest decisions of my life and has had a major impact on me. When I went to school there wasn’t a ‘mypurdue’ and they did not accept any Disney courses for credit. I’m not sure what their policy is now. You would need to ask your councilor. They also have meetings where reps come to talk about the program…they may have more information as well. I continued to pay for my apartment at PU so I would not lose it but I was pushed back a semester (which was well worth it). I would say to ask your councilor as soon as possible and if they’re not responding, look for the DCP posters around the school for a contact number. Best of luck, please keep me updated!

      1. Hey!! I just got accepted for Fall 2016. I’m super excited. I got QSFB which wasn’t one of my top 3 choices but that’s fine, I’m super pumped lol.
        I’m probably gonna keep my apartment here too so I would have a place to stay in Jan next yr. I’m a little concerned about money though. How much extra did u bring with you? I have so many questions, I don’t even know where to start. Did you try to get internship credit? I dun really wanna pay tuition though lol.

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