The Disneyland College Program is a challenging but magical internship experience. Due to COVID-19, the DCP has not returned but since the Walt Disney World program has resumed we have to assume the Disneyland one will eventually return. I participated in both the Walt Disney World College Program as well as the Disneyland one. In an episode of the LA Dreaming Podcast, I discussed my experience on the Disneyland Program with my friend Caitlin.
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How Does the Disney College Program Work
You can choose to apply to the Walt Disney World College Program or the Disneyland College Program. The Disneyland College Program (DCP) is open to both locals as well as those who need to stay in Disney housing. Those who participate in the program have the opportunity to live, learn and earn. For the DCP, those who wish to live in Disney Housing will share an apartment in Anaheim with other interns. You are required to take one class during your time in the program. And, you are guaranteed a specific amount of hours to work.
How Do You Apply for the Disneyland College Program
Please check this website to keep an eye on when applications go live again. The program is available to those who are still in college or have graduated within the last six months. I applied for the WDW program a few months before I graduated. Following graduation, I worked at EPCOT from May to January. During the fall I interviewed for the DCP so that I could move back to California with a job. I then was on the DCP from January through early September.
Please note that my experience was pre-COVID so things might have changed by the time you apply. However, when I was on the programs you had two choices. You could apply for an advantage program that added the summer to your program. Or you could apply to just work during the spring or the fall for a shorter program. Unlike the Disney World program which is open to international students, the DCP is exclusive to US residents. You can also apply for the Disney Professional Internships which include areas outside of the parks.
I do not recommend participating in the program while you are still in school. If you chose to take time off from school to do the program there is a chance you will not return to finish your degree. I have seen several people get swept up by the magic and choose to keep working at the parks over going back to school. Others tried to still be an active student while on the program which is not the best idea as they will likely schedule you during class. I recommend waiting until you are done with school so that you don’t jeopardize your degree.
If you are wondering what the application process is like it is relatively easy. Once you apply, if you are being considered you’ll be invited to participate in a phone interview. You will get to list two or three roles that you would be interested in working in. At Walt Disney World I worked attractions, on the DCP I asked for stores so I could experience a different department. Caitlin worked in custodial and loved her experience.
Disneyland College Program Housing
There are quite a few differences between the DCP and the WDW program. One of them is that locals can still live in their own housing for the DCP. However, if you don’t live near Anaheim you will want to live in Disney Housing. Caitlin lived in the housing in Anaheim, while I stayed with family during my Disneyland program. Carnegie Plaza is located roughly 15 minutes away from the parks. Having your own transportation is recommended but you can take a bus if you need to.
It is shared housing so you will not have your own bedroom. There are typically one to two bedrooms per apartment with 2-3 people living in each room. There is also a living room area and a small kitchen. Housing is not free, Disney will take the cost of housing out of your paycheck.
Another difference between the Disney World and Disneyland programs is that you are required to take a class as part of the Anaheim program. Caitlin took Marketing U which teaches you how to make yourself stand out and excel. I took the Leadership in Business class which had different people from the Disney Company come and speak to us. We heard from Imagineer Marty Skylar, the VP of Disneyland at that time, someone from Disney events, and more!
If you love reading and want to learn more about Disney there are some great books to read. Disneyland by Chris Nichols is a fantastic book. Disney Imagineer & Disney Legend Rolly Crump wrote a book called It’s Kind of a Cute Story. There is another great book that gives you an inside look at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
Disneyland College Program Benefits
While on the program you will get free admission to the parks as well as a cast member discount. You can also have the opportunity to participate in special events that are exclusive to interns. There is the possibility of getting to stay with the company after your program ends. Plus, if you are still in college you may be able to receive credit for your participation. The biggest perk will be having Disney on your resume, which has always been a positive topic of discussion with recruiters when I have interviewed for other jobs.
Due to the pandemic, I cannot really say how special events will be in the future. However, I would love to share with you some of my favorite events that I participated in during my program.
Touring the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank
Unlike other movie studios such as Warner Bros, the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank is not available to the public through a studio tour. Occasionally, D23 members or Disney Movie Insiders can get the chance to participate in a studio tour which you can read about here. Due to how rare visiting the studio is it was such a highlight of my program that I got to tour the studios. We were able to see so many incredible spots at the studio. This was such an incredible day!
Special Experiences with Select Attractions
Both Caitlin and I got to experience the Tower of Terror and Space Mountain with a special experience. These types of experiences are not available to just any cast member, they have to be arranged and you have to be invited which is why this was so special. For Tower of Terror, we were shown hidden Mickey’s and other special objects around the attraction. We then got to ride it with no show effects, lights, or sounds which was incredibly spooky but so much fun!
We both also loved getting to ride Space Mountain with the lights on, an experience that most Disney fans are always hoping to get to have. Attraction experiences may vary but these were both so special for us.
A Tour of Walt Disney’s Private Apartment on Main Street
Walt Disney’s Private Apartment on Main Street is typically only available through the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps Tour. However, as part of the DCP, I was able to see this magical place. Late, I would go on to join Guest Relations and would get to visit the apartment more.
A Tour of the Disneyland Dream Suite
The Disneyland Dream Suite, located above Pirates of the Caribbean, is normally off-limits to the majority of guests. Through the program, I was blessed with so many Disney bucket list experiences that I will treasure for as long as I can remember them.
A Disney Graduation
At the end of your program, you will be invited to a celebration/graduation. You’ll get your graduation ears and will have the chance to meet graduate Goofy or another character. This is such a great way to celebrate all of your hard work.
Working on the Disneyland College Program
You should be able to work a minimum of 30 hours. The Disneyland Program offered a pretty good work-life balance while the WDW program can have interns working close to 70 hours. Your role will have its challenges but every job at the parks is truly essential to helping The Disneyland Resort be the happiest place on earth.
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Would I recommend the program? I do recommend it but again, I recommend considering it once you are done with school. Not only did the program give me great career skills but each program has given me a best friend that I am still close with even after all these years.