What is the Disney college program? What is this Disney?

What is the Disney college program? The Walt Disney World College Program is a national paid-internship program owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company, and it could be your ticket into a career at the Magic Kingdom. College-age students can apply to take part in a program that is highly competitive and quite rigorous. But it could also give you a distinct advantage in becoming a part of Disney’s unique culture and diverse community. If you’re a college student with an interest in joining one of the world’s best-known and most beloved entertainment brands, and you don’t mind answering to a giant mouse, the Disney College Program could be just what you’re looking for.

And for a sense of what the Disney College Program is really like, we spoke with program graduate, Jennifer Tatum. Jennifer is a professional substitute teacher, a mother of three, a wife of one, and a storyteller living near the shores of Lake Michigan. Jennifer earned her Ductorate degree — the highest credential bestowed upon Disney University graduates — in the summer of 1993.

What is the Disney college program?

The Walt Disney World College Program is a national paid-internship program owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company, and it could be your ticket into a career at the Magic Kingdom. College-age students can apply to take part in a program that is highly competitive and quite rigorous. But it could also give you a distinct advantage in becoming a part of Disney’s unique culture and diverse community. If you’re a college student with an interest in joining one of the world’s best-known and most beloved entertainment brands, and you don’t mind answering to a giant mouse, the Disney College Program could be just what you’re looking for.

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And for a sense of what the Disney College Program is really like, we spoke with program graduate, Jennifer Tatum. Jennifer is a professional substitute teacher, a mother of three, a wife of one, and a storyteller living near the shores of Lake Michigan. Jennifer earned her Ductorate degree — the highest credential bestowed upon Disney University graduates — in the summer of 1993.

For you Disney history buffs, back then, Disney was fresh off a Best Picture Oscar nomination for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin was red hot, and The Lion King was on the near horizon. As Jennifer remembers, “Disney was right at the forefront of innovating with CGI in animation.”

Jennifer brings us a first-hand look at the Disney curriculum, culture and experience directly from what she describes as “the epicenter” of innovation in entertainment, media and animated film production. If you’re interested in applying for Disney’s College Program, be sure to read about Jennifer’s experiences. We believe they are quite illuminating.

Also, be aware that spots in this program are extremely limited, the application process is challenging, and the program is demanding. But if you do get it, you’ll learn firsthand whether a job with Disney is right for you, and you’ll get a leg up on the competition as you work to build a Disney career.

Disney college program

What will I learn through the Disney College Program?

The Disney College Program offers students a combination of on-the-job experience, college coursework, and immersion. In most cases, you’ll have the chance to interact with individuals from around the world, reside in company-sponsored housing, and engage in paid internships at Disney theme parks and resorts. Disney divides this program into three key thematic priorities:

  • Living
  • Learning
  • Earning
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In other words, Disney College Programs give you an immersive experience — living on a Disney property, learning through Disney’s college-level educational programs, and earning income through a paid internship.

It bears noting that Disney University, not to be confused with the Disney College Program, is reserved for those who will ultimately go on to become Disney employees, or cast members. As a Disney University student, you’ll take courses in Heritage and Traditions; Personal and Professional Development; and On the Job Training.

Jennifer points out that the training and education you’ll receive through Disney is invaluable, regardless of where your career ultimately takes you. She explains:

The Disney classes didn’t correspond directly to my college degree program, but they were a huge benefit to me professionally. The Disney classes really taught customer service, gave me a strong work ethic, and helped me learn to put the job ahead of my personal needs and feelings while at work.

At Disney, you cannot bring your personal problems to the workplace, and I definitely learned that lesson well.
Jennifer goes on to explain that at Disney, you must learn to be cheerful no matter what you’re experiencing in your personal life. Jennifer reveals that she grappled with a very serious health matter during her time at Disney, but she learned how to show up each day with a smile. Today, this skill is an absolute necessity in Jen’s work as a public school teacher. We’re guessing most educators can relate to just how useful this skill is.

Disney college program

How fast can I complete the Disney College Program?

The program is typically between five and seven months in length, or roughly the minimum length of a college semester. However, there are options for extending your program to a second semester. Moreover, you are eligible to apply for participation in the Disney program multiple times.

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Where are Disney College Programs taught?

Disney College Programs are instructed in-person in Anaheim, California near Disneyland, and in Lake Buena Vista, Florida near Walt Disney World. Classes are held in close proximity to their respective theme parks, allowing for students to be placed into real paid internship roles on actual Disney properties.

Disney College Program participants have the option of taking advantage of company-sponsored, park-adjacent student housing, but those living in proximity to the park may also commute to campus.

For those who plan to pursue professional training through Disney University, most instructor-led courses are administered on location at various Disney properties, including the Walt Disney World building adjacent to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida; Burbank’s Team Disney Headquarters, and various learning facilities near both Disneyland Paris and Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

These on-site campus programs allow aspiring Disney professionals to access and experience real, operational Disney properties. It also places Disney University students into close proximity to Cast Member lots, which helps to facilitate internships and experiential professional development. In fact, all Disney College Program student interns, Walt Disney World International Program participants and newly hired Cast Members must attend an employee orientation program called Disney Traditions.

The Disney Traditions class “imparts the importance of Disney culture, heritage, values, and policies through media and group activities. This is the day where new Cast Members get their first sight of backstage. One of the most anticipated moments during ‘Traditions’ is when Mickey Mouse himself passes out the name tags to the new Cast Members.”

Disney college program

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