How She Got That Internship: The Disney College Program Edition
Image Credits: Instagram / Sarah Livelli
How She Got That Internship is a series that highlights conservative women’s internships in various organizations and positions to inspire the next generation of conservative women to lead. Did you, or a young woman that you know, have an internship experience you want to share with our readers? Submit it in this form and we will contact you if we think it would be a great fit for the series.
Summer internship season is nearly upon us, and girls across the country are dutifully working to complete their applications in time to land the internship that might change their lives. FFL is sitting down with a number of interns to reflect on the best internships they’ve had and inspire others to try new things, step outside of their comfort zone, and be the best intern they can be.
One of the most sought after internship-type programs is the Disney College Program, so this is the answer to that prayer–and it’s not just one woman’s experience!
I heard from 73–yes, 73–people who did the Disney College Program, ranging from ladies who did it in the ’90s to young women who just got back from it a few weeks ago. They all had something to share about their time with the program, the application process, and how it impacted their careers going forward! Here’s a sampling of some of the people I talked to and their experiences with the program.
I spoke to these 73 women who participated in the program over the past 25 years, most of them within the past 10 years, and they worked at different places throughout the park–from the various restaurants around the park to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to the Grand Floridian, and more. Here’s what they had to say.
What drew you to the internship program before you applied? Did you know people who had done it before? Were you a long-time Disney fan?
“I was! I went to Disney with my family almost every year growing up and as soon as I learned about the program, I knew I wanted to do it!”
“I was a long time disney fan and always wanted to work for the company and at the time I started applying (it took 3 tries) I really saw it as an opportunity to meet new people and move to the opposite side of the country with security and no long term commitment if it didn’t work out. After that it was all of that and I had a point to prove after having been denied.”
“I actually had no idea it existed as crazy as that sounds. I grew up loving Disney which is ultimately what made me apply but I first saw an ad on Facebook one day while scrolling and applied right then.”
“I grew up going to Disney every couple of years with my family. It was an escape and held so many special memories. I would look back at our time and think about how the experience was made so magical, not by the rides, or the shops, or even the characters (as I got older), but instead by the Cast Members. Each and everyone of them would go out of their way to ensure each guest was having the most memorable time. When I found out about the College Program from a teacher of mine who had participated, I knew I needed to apply. I kept putting it off, but I came to a point in college where I realized I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t know what I wanted to study, where I wanted to end up, it just seemed like a waste of money at the time. So I decided spur of the moment to apply for the Disney College Program.”
“I needed to get out of my small hometown, and work on bettering myself.”
“I was a long time Disney fan and saw cast members in the park with colleges on their name tags. I thought it would be cool to be a part of that for a semester and live in Disney World”
“I saw a flyer for it at my college and just decided to apply on a whim. I was a casual fan but had never been to Disney World before.”
“I was a long time Disney fan! But I was also in a place in my life where I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do next. I was a college student, unsure of my major, my boyfriend, and my future. So, when I saw a sign on the table at my school’s dining hall advertising the college program, I made a spur of the moment decision, ran back to my dorm, and applied!”
What was the application process like?
“It was very stressful! There were three sections: First, an application. Second, a web-based interview. And lastly, a phone interview.”
“There was a pretty intense application process. It started with a simple almost resume like form. The second part of the application was the Web Based Interview (WBI). It was pretty long and asked a lot of repeat questions, and I found it helpful to take this with my roommate because she helped me answer some questions I wasn’t sure about. Finally there was the phone interview. TBH, I didn’t know that I should’ve prepared for this and kind of winged it. It worked out! There are a ton of vlogs on youtube that can give tips for these!”
“Both times I applied I got my web interview the same day I did my first application. I did my phone interview 3 days later and got accepted within the same week. Both times it was less than a week process. I actually applied and got accepted a third time as well but the timing ended up not working out so I couldn’t end up going but it was the exact same process for me.”
“It was nerve wracking, but very exciting”
“I had applied 5 different times and got rejected before getting accepted on my 6th try! I got my web based interview, then my phone interview the following week, then got accepted two weeks after!”
“Difficult. This was my second time applying and I spent 3 hours just on my resume trying to plug in keywords to get my application noticed”
“Filling out the online portion of the application was not bad at all. Waiting, reading the Facebook pages and the GroupMe’s, stressing about when “waves” were happening, those all made the application process an emotional rollercoaster. The exciting anticipation waiting for your phone interview and your acceptance.. I wouldn’t change the experience for the world!”
“There were a lot of steps to getting accepted and I was very nervous during the waiting periods but very excited after every step. The waiting period between my phone interview and my offer was when I was most anxious! I think Disney has such a long application process because they only want the best!! I liked that the application allowed me to only put interest in roles I wanted. For example, I put “No Interest” in custodial, quick service food, mouse keeping, and lifeguard roles; this means they wouldn’t offer me a position in any of these roles.
What was your training like? What about the first day on the job?
“The first day on the job was a little scary only because I didn’t know what to expect. I spent most of my first day doing online training for food and beverage. So things like alcohol training, cash training and much more. My training was 2 weeks long. It was a little disorganized to be quite honest but only because my location was already short staffed. Training was a lot. My hours were all over the place from a shift that started at 5 in the morning and a shift that ended at 2 in the morning. Though it was stressful I truly enjoyed getting to know all my co-workers in the process.”
“Beautiful. I loved every second of it. Even the “boring” bits such as learning how to use a register were fun. I just couldn’t believe I’d be working with Disney, and I relished each little piece. To know the mechanics, the data, the protocol, was simply discovering more and more about the place and concept that I love above everything. Oh, so this is the specific way to say hello and goodbye to a Guest! Now I know one more thing about Disney! I’ve used parts of that training in life after my Program, because a lot of what you learn is universal.”
“We had to go through training to get a license to do hair. On the first day of “hair training” we learned the hairstyles on mannequin heads backstage. The other 5 days of our training were spent on the floor doing transformations on princesses, almost like we were already working! We spent the last few days of training learning positions. After training we were sent straight to the salon where we did hair, nails, and makeup on princesses all day!”
“I earned my ears for three days. My very first day interacting with Guests I Magical Moment’ed two elderly twins celebrating their birthdays and tbh I still cry thinking about it”
“Training was so much fun! For training we got to try all the foods and desserts our location had to offer that was awesome! I lived trying the many gelato flavors we had and the Mac and cheese! First day was awesome, we toured the resort and met everyone. I might have cried!! We learned the menus and the dining plans, what to expect during the role!”
“For me, the training wasn’t too bad. I had previously been a lifeguard and competitive swimmer so I felt pretty confident with my capability to pass the training tests. My nerves didn’t kick in until I arrived in my area. My trainer was very by the books and I was not sure what to make of her. However, my biggest piece of advice in terms of training, get on good terms with your trainer(s). They are the biggest resource for you, especially when your nervous or have any questions. “
Overall, how would you describe your internship with Disney?
“It was scary at first being the first time away from home but it gave me the most amazing memories I’ll have for the rest of my life. I think about some of those memories all the time. It caused me to become an annual passholder even though I live in New York so I could go visit my old friends who still work there. I’ll forever be grateful of the internship for the memories it gave me.”
“Life changing. There’s not much more I could say about it other than that is absolutely changed my perspective on life, taught me how to provide the best customer service, made me lifelong friends, and brought so many amazing and unique opportunities into my life.”
“I would describe it as an experience that I would never change for the world. It was tough, and I didn’t get along with all of my roommates, but even that I wouldn’t change, because it all led to the experience of a lifetime.”
“Not quite what I was hoping for, but that’s okay. I was able to get my foot in the door and to me, that’s all that really mattered.”
“Oh wow, what a question! It was purely magical. I met so many amazing people from all around the world. I lived and worked at the happiest place on earth for 5 months and loved every second.”
“I’m heartbroken that my internship was cut short due to the pandemic, but I really loved my internship. My leaders at my location were amazing and most of my guests interactions were great. I met so many wonderful people and my internship has made me want to seek a future career with Disney”
“My internship with Disney has been such a highlight of my life. I fell in love with the company, but more importantly, my coworkers. To the point that following my internship I stayed at Disney as a full-time Cast Member for a year in the exact same location (different role). The connections I made are ones I have kept with me, even several years after completely leaving. The experience of being in customer facing situations has helped me feel confident in so many aspects of my life, both personally and professionally.”
“My internship was life changing. I really do feel like a different person. In fact, I feel more confident and capable. I would trade my experiences, good and bad, for anything. I miss my coworkers and leaders every day, as well as every guest I met at the touchpoints and exits. My experience taught me a lot about myself and what I am capable of, and I hope I am back working at Disney very soon.”
“Hard and difficult but overall rewarding.”
Did the Disney internship relate to what you studied in college or influence what you wanted to study or pursue post-grad?
“No. I was a History major. I just really wanted to work for Disney.”
“No it didn’t at all. I’m an elementary education major but I think that the program taught me some valuable lessons and skills I can later use in the classroom!”
“It didn’t relate to what I’ve been studying in college, but it did influence the fact that I want to stay with the company post-grad.”
“It relates directly to my major and helped me learn a lot. Prior to the program I knew I wanted to move to Orlando. I now have a ton of friends and connections waiting for me when I finish school and I have already been back to visit. The experience made me feel more secure in my career choices.”
“I’m an English major, so kind of. I did need to communicate and be a storyteller because I was a member of the Resistance and very much had to be a part of a storytelling environment for guests!”
“My DCP role did not directly relate to my degree, however I studied costume design in college because I wanted to work for Disney. I was supposed to be doing a professional costuming internship in June at Disney and I was given that opportunity because I was apart of the college program.”
“Sort of. I am studying human development and family science which relates to their children’s activities roles mainly. I was originally going to start my cert process to be a child life specialist but now I want to work ft at Disney and maybe do that part time on the side”
“Not really. I studied animation, and didn’t do any animation. But did get the chance to expand my creative knowledge and help me find interests I wouldn’t have figured out otherwise.”
“Yes! I majored in computer animation, so it was certainly art related, but the theme park field was completely new for me, and now that I have completed the internship I am certain that this is an avenue I would love to take and I am now absolutely keeping that in mind for my future goals and career path!”
What would be your number one piece of advice for young women interested in doing a Disney internship?
“I think you have to go into it knowing why you are there. For me, I knew I wanted the career experience and to set the stage for an eventual long term move. The people who do it for just fun or followed a friend or significant other there have a hard time dealing with the negatives of the program. When you know you’re there for good reasons and you have a passion for the company it makes the long hours and for me a lot of overnights worth it.”
“Just jump in and don’t second guess it. If you do then you’ll never do it. You won’t regret it. And once you’re there if you get homesick right at first just sick with it. It will pass”
“’d say take this opportunity to be the girl you always wish you were. I know I personally struggled with a lot of anxiety- I’m an introvert so making new friends and being myself is always really tough and it took a lot of telling myself- no one is going to tell you you’re wrong or make fun of you for being outgoing. We are all here, friendless, with at least one thing in common- Disney. So be outgoing, be quirky, be yourself and you’ll attract your best friends and your forever family.”
“ANYONE can do the program, with any major or background, and it CAN become your professional career afterwards.”
“Since doing an art internship is a little different, I would offer more specific advice which is related to your portfolio for when you apply, especially for a department like DPLE: Diversify your portfolio! A department like this one needs artists who are able to create things in all different styles.”
“Don’t get too caught up with boys. Often times, girls get to their DCP and find a boy right away because it’s what everyone else is doing. I found that you give up a huge part of the experience doing that.”
“Make your mental health a priority. Recharge, rest, and don’t be afraid to seek out help if you need it.”
“DO IT! You will not regret it! Days will be hard and you will want to stop, but then you just have to remember the faces of little kids when they see Tinkerbell fly over the Magic Kingdom during Happily Ever After. It’s all worth it.”
“Bring a car, and if you don’t have one, buy a cheap one to get you through! The buses are sadly not very reliable, and your time will fly by, so you don’t want to waste anymore of it than you have to waiting on a bus.”
“I would say to do it. Don’t let anyone stop you because in the long run you might regret and wonder what it would of been like if you did it and how different your life can be.”
FFL Cabinet Member