Disney Theme Parks Wiki

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


The first Walt Disney 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 Kingdom. 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 three-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 nearby Kissimmee, Florida. 1988 saw the opening of Vista Way apartments, which were much closer to the participants' 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 autumn of 2004, student opportunities at Disneyland were combined with the opportunities available at Walt Disney World. 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 & Beverage, Attractions, Custodial, Hospitality, and Entertainment. If a student chooses to do Entertainment, he or she must attend one of several regional auditions.

If the student has been accepted, they will receive an acceptance letter within three to four 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 1980s, 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 one of four 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). At the Disneyland Resort, participants stay in the Center Street Promenade complex, approximately two miles north of the Disneyland Resort. Each participant has the opportunity to choose to live in a one-, two-, three-, or four-bedroom apartment, with two people sharing a bedroom.

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 four "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.


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.

Sources & External Links[]