CoURTNEY Gulick shares her Disney College Program experience
Why you pursue this experience? My family and I have always been huge Disney fans. They are a fortune 500 company for a reason. Every time I went to Disney World on vacation the cast members (employees) that worked there made my experience unforgettable and magical every single time. I honestly thought the cast members were the reason I loved Disney World so much. Now that I've worked there, I can vouch and say that it is the sole reason why the company is loved by so many. I was told by professors and mentors, that having Walt Disney World Company on your resume would be good and that was a main factor as to why I pursued this experience. Little did I know all of the amazing things I would gain and learn during my program.
How you obtained the experience? To apply for the Disney College Program, you must be enrolled in a college or have been graduated less than a year out. I had heard about this experience through multiple family friends that had done it and enjoyed it. The application process starts with submitting a resume with basic application questions. Once you submit the application Disney decides based on your application, if you move on to the next process which is a web-based interview. The web-based interview is a series of questions you answer online, and it took about 30 minutes. As soon as the web-based interview is over, you get told if you move on to phone interviews. Phone interview is the final step in the application process. During the phone interview you spend about 20 minutes on the phone with a cast member and then you wait for what could be up to 2 months to hear back to see if you made it into the Disney College Program. Luckily, they only had me wait about a week and a half to find out that I had made it!
What were the program details? The Disney College Program is essentially an internship for college students. There are 22 roles you can be placed in and I was placed in merchandise. You find out your role once you receive your acceptance letter, but you don't find out your location until a week before you start your job. The program has apartments just for the college program and you can have 2 or up to 7 roommates and they allow you to request what you want to pick. Rent is automatically taken out of your pay check so you don't have to worry about paying every week, which is nice. Once you move in, they give you a few days to get settled in and then they have orientation and HR/training classes for the first week. The orientation and training classes were amazing. It was entertaining yet informational and Disney really knew how to make you feel a part of the family. The orientation they have is called Traditions. It was the best orientation I have ever been to and that alone made me extremely excited to work for the Walt Disney World Company. Once you finish training classes you start working at your location and do training for about a week (it depends on your role based on how long training will be). Once you finish training you take an assessment and after that you have "earned your ears" and you are an official cast member!
The program has many opportunities outside of work that are extremely beneficial to your career. Through the Disney College Program, they offer education programs such as marketing classes, resume building, leadership 101, etc. These classes are completely free, and they automatically give you the time off from work to attend these classes. I thought this was pretty amazing considering Disney knows how to run a successful company and you get to learn how they do it. Aside from the exceptional education programs they also had many other exclusive opportunities such as getting to ride the new Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway before it had even opened to the public. There were also behind-the-scenes tours for cast members to see how they run their operations in the parks as well as welcome events and grocery bingo nights. There were many services and opportunities while doing the college program. The biggest perk of all was cast members receive free admission to all the parks during the time we are working there. We can also receive comp tickets for friends and family which is made things extremely cheap when my parents wanted to come visit. The 4 keys that Disney promoted to us was safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. Safety being the #1 key to focus on, it only made sense that during these hard times dealing with COVID-19 that we be safe and get sent home so that we can all overcome this obstacle.
What was your role? My role was Disney Springs Arrival Experience. This role was considered in merchandise although it was 40% merch and 60% guest relations. I worked at Disney Springs and had multiple positions. The positions included: directory greeter, entrance greeter, lost and found pick-up, lost and found warehouse, stroller and wheelchair rentals, and sundries store cashier. My favorite position was the lost and found pick-up window. The lost and found items from all 4 parks would come to Disney Springs and guests could pick up their found items there as well. I loved this job so much because I could make magic by returning a guest item to them. I had guests cry, dance, and even jump for joy when they'd come to get their items. It just made me feel so accomplished to make magical moments because I knew how much it meant to me when I was a little kid and other cast members made magical moments for me. Being a greeter for Disney Springs allowed me to know every single thing that Disney Springs has to offer and say "Boiler Up" every time I saw a Purdue shirt. At first, I was skeptical about my role with arrival experience because I didn't know what the role was about, but I loved it more than anything and I wouldn't have traded it for any other role. The cast members, coordinators, and leaders made my job an unforgettable experience that I will never ever forget.
Did you enjoy your experience? I enjoyed my experience so much, even though it was cut short and lasted only 2 months. I would 100% recommend it to any college student that has a positive outlook on life and wants to learn more from what I think is the best company I've ever worked for. I think if every college student had the opportunity to do the Disney College Program, they should do it because it's done nothing but bring happiness and magical experiences to college program members who have done it in the past.
What is one thing that you will remember most? This is a tough question because I'm going to remember so many things, not just one. If I had to choose one thing though, I really think it would be the cast members including the top tier leadership that I looked up to at my location. The coordinators and leaders were some of the best people I have ever met, and they made me love my job. They knew how to handle no so happy guests and they knew how to help you without question. My college program cast members that I worked with will be my best friends for life. I miss them already and we have already started planning our reunion Disney trip!