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The Ultimate Guide to the Disney College Program

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The Disney College Program is the opportunity of a lifetime and I want you to walk away at the end of your program with zero regrets about the experience. To help make the most out of your time in Orlando I’ve put together a detailed guide to assist you in picking out your roles, preparing for the phone interview, and finding the best roommates. If you have any unanswered questions after reading this don’t hesitate to reach out below in the comments. I’ll do my best to get back to you.

Roles within the College Program

Attractions

Attractions is one of the most popular roles on the Disney College program. When you think of jobs within the theme park attractions is certainly one of them. It is also one of the most popular and most sought after roles so competition can be a little bit tougher than if you’re going after something like food and beverage. Cast members who work in attractions tend to say that the coworkers make or break the situation. Most people agree that your coworkers become more like family, so if you’re looking for good friendships this is certainly a good role for that. The downside to attractions is that you’re most likely only going to be trained on one or two rides and it can get a little monotonous doing the same thing over and over again all day. If you know for certain that you only want to work in one of the theme parks attractions should be high on your list. If you get an attractions role you know you’ll be working in one of the four theme parks or at Downtown Disney at Disney Quest. With other roles you can easily be placed inside a gift shop at a resort or at the Marketplace at Downtown Disney (soon to be renamed Disney Springs).

Custodial

Custodial is one of the most misunderstood roles within the Disney College program, and arguably one of the best-kept secrets. The benefit of working custodial is that you have a lot of independence and free-reign to move around the park and do as you please. Custodial members are also referred to as custodial guest services. The reason for this title is because custodial cast members are literally walking information stations within the theme park. If a guest has a question in regards to bathrooms, show times or even where they can find a specific piece of merchandise, a custodial cast member will most likely be the first available point of contact. With that being said, this is a role for those looking for lots of guest interaction. Yes, you’ll have to sweep the streets and pick up trash, but you’ll also get the benefit of watching the parades and pin training with guests. Most custodial cast members that I have spoken to agree that custodial is one of the best roles within the college program.

Recreation

Recreation cast members to work in a variety of settings from the water parks to the Boat docks of downtown Disney or even the fishing hole located at the Port Orleans resort. If you’re someone who doesn’t really care about working inside the Magic Kingdom or one of the other theme parks then this is a role to consider. One of the most popular recreation roles for college program participants is to work as slide operations at Blizzard Beach, or Typhoon Lagoon. Slide operations is essentially the attractions role of the water parks. You can expect to help guests into their floats and prompt them when it’s safe to go down the slides. In the event of bad weather, the water parks will close and those working during the Florida rainy summer will learn to appreciate the paid breaks that come from those afternoon thunderstorms. Working at a marina such as the one found at Downtown Disney, or at a fishing location can be a very relaxed environment and much slower than the rest of the parks and resorts. Cast members who work in these environments tend to have mixed opinions. Some cast members complain that the day moves a little too slowly while others like the laid-back pace. Recreation cast members can also work as lifeguards. Most of the time Disney likes to see that you have some previous experience working as a lifeguard before placing you in this role. Lifeguards are paid and a premium and are one of the highest paid roles within the program.

Hospitality

Cast members who get hired for roles in hospitality tend to be studying hospitality management at their University or have previous experience working in hotels. These roles are pretty predictable for anyone familiar with the hotel industry. You have your standard front desk, concierge, bellhop roles that are found in any hotel. Obviously you won’t be working inside one of the parks, but the hotels at Disney are very impressive and being in the air conditioning all day has its perks.

Food and Beverage

Like only a few other roles, food and beverage cast members get paid a premium, but the work environment isn’t the greatest. Food and beverage locations tend to be very fast-paced and stressful. Imagine dealing with hundreds if not thousands of guests every day from all around the world and having to effectively communicate with each of them in order to correctly place their order. This can be somewhat frustrating and hungry guests can be rude at times. When it comes to the ranking the unhappiest positions within the college program this and being a character attendant tend to be high on the list. Keep in mind food and beverage does not limit you to working strictly in a theme park. Working in hotels or water park locations tends to be a little slower and more manageable. With that said, if you have experience working in a fast-paced food environment then this could be a great role for you. A Disney executive once spoke to one of my hospitality classes and said that stressful roles like food and beverage provide opportunities for cast members to shine. If your goal is to move up within the company it might be a good idea to take on a harder role with the mindset of putting in the extra effort to go above and beyond. The extra effort will get you noticed by management.

Main Entrance Ops

Main entrance operations is pretty straightforward. You work at the front gates of the park and assist with entry. Now the Disney has rolled out their new ticketless program main entrance operations has become a lot easier with the exception of dealing with magic band issues. In this role you are likely one of the first interactions guest will have a cast member upon getting to Disney so going that extra mile by being personable and friendly can really help get the guests off to a great start. Working main entrance operations can be a little monotonous but by injecting your personality into the role you can really make or break this job. Seldom do I hear from cast members who dislike working in this area.

Photopass

Photopass is a really cool within the college program. If you’ve taken any sort of visual art classes like photography or film be sure to put that on your resume, but having previous experience as a photographer is not a requirement. One of the cool parts about working photopass is that you can work in any of the parks, resorts, or waterparks and your location shifts throughout the day. At the beginning of your shift you get your first assignment for the day and throughout the day you’ll rotate to various photopass locations in that area. I hear from a lot of photopass photographers that they really like this because it breaks up the day and gives them an opportunity to work with new people. In the morning you could be working with the princesses and in my afternoon you could be on Main Street taking pictures in front of the castle. There is a lot of bending in this role and holding the camera all day can get a little tiring, but overall most really have no complaints.

Character Attendant

The character attendant role is hit or miss. You really need to have thick skin in order to be successful at this role. I’ve heard numerous stories from attendants who’ve been spit on, cussed out, and even punched by guests. The reasoning behind these crazy stories is that character attendants have to be the bad guy and cut the line at the end of a meet and greet. Most guests will understand, but you will always get that one who puts up a fight to get their kid in the line. Also, working with characters can be somewhat stressful. Not to knock anyone but some entertainment cast members have reputations for their diva like personalities (looking at you princesses). I’m not saying all characters are bad, but some tend to think that working for the mouse is equivalent to being a Broadway star. The benefits to being character attendant is that it is a global position, meaning that you can work in any of the four parks. Attendants also don’t have to worry about dealing with money or ride breakdowns, which some people find stressful.

Merchandise

Merchandise is fairly straightforward. You’ll most likely be working in one of Disney’s many gift shops. Typical responsibilities include working the cash register, stocking, and keeping the store tidy. If you choose merchandise you have a high chance of being placed indoors, but that isn’t always a guarantee. Some locations like Mainstreet actually rotate cast members between the stores and outside stands. You could also be place inside a resort or at Downtown Disney. One benefit to this role is that it’s pretty easy to pick up shifts at other locations. Keep in mind some merchandise locations like Goofy’s Candy Company work primarily with food.

Costuming

Costuming is a behind-the-scenes role where cast members help keep the rest of cast’s uniforms show-ready. There is still a lot of interaction involved with this role, but it’ll be with other cast members. Some costuming CPs will have the opportunity to work on one of Disney’s entertainment production, meaning they will work exclusively on preparing the cast’s outfits and getting them ready for show-time. Overall, costuming is a very laid back role, in fact some people dislike it because they don’t get to work in the actual park. If you’re a little more introverted then this is a good role for you.

Character Performer

Character performer roles are by far the most in demand roles on the college program. In order to be considered for entertainment position you must audition. Auditions are held at various locations throughout the country and also in Orlando. To find out where and when the auditions are taking place visit the official Disney Auditions site. Entertainment roles tend work very differently from the rest. First off, breaks vary based on your location and weather. Fur characters (people in the suits) working outside will work twenty minutes on set and then have a forty-minute break. Face characters (princesses) will usually work indoors and will work one hour on set and then have a one-hour break. Character performer shifts tend to be long, but considering they only work every other hour and get an hour to get ready, it evens out. To break it down a face character shift at the Princess Fairytale Hall can be up to twelve hours (not including an unpaid lunch). Out of those twelve hours the performer is paid for one hour of cosmetic time and five hours of breaks, leaving only five hours of actual work. For obvious reasons the face characters aren’t to well liked by others in terms of work schedules.

Getting Ready for the Phone Interview

When setting up a time for your phone interview make sure you have a decent chuck of time blocked off before and after your scheduled interview time. You never know if your interviewer will be a little early or running a bit late. Also try to use a landline phone, because the last thing you want is for your cell phone to drop the call. I’m sure dropped calls happen quite a bit, but try to avoid it. Also, make sure you’re free from distractions. Shut off your cell phone or silence it, tell everyone in your house that you’ll be on the call and if you have a dog get far enough away from them, so in the event that the dog decides to have a barking frenzy, it goes unnoticed during your phone interview.

Common Phone Interview Questions


Describe past jobs?
How have you handled a difficult situation with a customer?
What does Disney mean to you personally?
What’s your best quality?
What’s your worst quality?
How would a current or previous manager describe you?
How would you go above and beyond to make an unhappy guest happy?
Do you have any visible tattoos?
How do you feel about living with roommates?
How would you handle a roommate disagreement?

You will be asked questions specific to the role(s) you’ve applied for. Examples of these could be:

How do you feel about talking in front of large groups?
Do you mind standing most of the day or large amounts of walking?
Do you like to work independently?
Do you have experience working with children?
What would you do if a child was unable to ride an attraction due to a height restriction?
Do you feel comfortable handling large amounts of cash?
Have you worked in an environment that required attention to food safety rules?

Also be prepared for situation type questions such as:
You meet a family who is disappointed they missed the fireworks display, and this is their last day in Orlando. How would you help to fix the situation?

How to Prep for the Interview

One of the best tips for succeeding at your interview is to simply relax and chill out beforehand. If you’re nervous going into the interview the interviewer will be able to hear it in your voice, and you’re going to portray yourself as someone who isn’t confident.

Be sure to review these questions and have a general idea as to how you’d answer them, but don’t prepare a word for word script because you’ll sound phony.

If you’re passionate about Disney don’t be afraid to share that enthusiasm with your interviewer. While you obviously want to come across in a professional manner, they still want people who are passionate about the Disney brand.

Remember to talk up your work experience and try to tailor it towards the roles you are applying for. Don’t lie, but simply throw in details from your past employment that pertain to whatever role you’re most interested in. Also remember that volunteer experience can count as previous work experience as well. Don’t be afraid to bring up any past experiences that you think relate to the role.

If you are someone who doesn’t have any previous work experience talk about your extracurricular activities and what you’re involved with at your school. Maybe you hold a leadership position within a student organization, or you’re the captain of a team. Include anything that will help to establish you as a leader and hard-working person.

Some people also like to request a specific work location during the interview. If you feel the need to specify a location I would stress to the interviewer that you’re open to anything, but would love the opportunity to work in ______.

Last but not least don’t be afraid to be yourself. Ultimately the interviewer is just trying to learn more about you so don’t be afraid to open up and share your opinion. Also feel free to ask the interviewer any questions you have in regards to the program.

Once you’ve finished with the interview it’s time to relax and wait until you hear from Disney as to whether or not you’ve been accepted. Some people receive an e-mail within a week or so, while others are left waiting for a few weeks. In the event that you receive an e-mail that says you are pending, don’t think it’s the end of the world. Lots of people are initially pending, but are later accepted to the program.

Finding Roommates

After you’ve received your acceptance and figured out your move-in date it’s time to get busy finding roommates. The best thing to do is to find Facebook groups for people arriving on the same day as you. You will find lots of people on these pages looking for roommates.

At this point you’re going to want to start adding people and stalking their Facebook profiles to see if you think you’d be compatible with living with this person. Keep in mind that Disney likes to separate the over 21 crowd from the under 21 group, but that isn’t always enforced.

What To Pack

Packing List:
Comforter and sheets
Your favorite pillows
Alarm clock
TV
DVD Player
Game system (if necessary)
Soap
Shampoo
Towels
Sun tan lotion
Walking shoes
Coffee maker
Toaster
Tupperware
Laptop
Digital camera / Video Camera
Wireless internet router & Ethernet cord
Shower curtain
Laundry bag
Comfortable Clothes (remember you’ll be working quite a bit so use less clothes than you probably think)
Professional Clothes
Bathing suit
ID Card
Disney Packet
Receipts
Voided check if you want to use direct deposit
Lock for your locker
Backpack

What to Expect

The college program is the opportunity of a lifetime and without a doubt you won’t regret doing it. You’re going to be living in one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world and getting to spend your free time taking advantage of the many things Florida has to offer.

You are practically guaranteed to make some of the strongest friendships you’ve ever had, and memories to last a lifetime. The college program is so good that many end up moving permanently to Orlando. Who knows, maybe you’ll be transferring to the University of Central Florida. They even offer a theme park management degree.

If you’re someone who is looking to make a career at Disney be sure to take advantage of the many networking opportunities that the college program provides. There are numerous classes on guest services and the history of Disney. There are also many opportunities to meet with managers in various areas. Take advantage of all of these because you never know what they’ll lead to.

At the end of the day I promise you won’t regret the experience. If you have any questions about the program please leave a comment below. I wish you the best of luck in your journey with the Walt Disney Company.

One Response to “The Ultimate Guide to the Disney College Program”

  1. Aimee says:

    Hi,
    I’m interviewing for the Disney college program next week. What is your suggestion for answering a question like “You meet a family who is disappointed they missed the fireworks display, and this is their last day in Orlando. How would you help to fix the situation?”

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