Disney College Program (DCP) – Getting Started (One Mom’s Perspective)

What happens after you say goodbye to your child at Walt Disney World?  For any parents out there wondering, there’s nothing to worry about (but we do anyway, I know).  Disney has had many years of practice with College Program participants and they do an excellent job, with rare exception, of easing them into their new housing and employment environments.

Disney College Program (DCP) – Getting Started (One Mom’s Perspective)

Raymond and I have been keeping up as Joseph embarks on his new adventure (while letting him handle everything by himself) and this is what we’ve learned so far…

Disney does an excellent job of communicating via email and dedicated website.  After his application and acceptance, Joseph took care of all the necessary pre-arrival paperwork and seemed to feel like he was well-informed about what to expect from the various aspects of the program.  He printed the documents he needed upon arrival and put them in a folder to keep his paperwork neat and handy.  He also paid his housing fees ($355 for Spring 2018) and parking fee ($85) as they came due.

Living at Walt Disney World

Housing requests can be submitted a couple of weeks pre-arrival.  Joseph ended up with his second choice of apartment complex and did not request any specific roommate(s) in advance.  Although he did connect with some potential friends via a DCP Facebook page, to be roommates, all parties’ arrival and departure dates must be the same.  There are four apartment complexes to choose from:  Patterson Court, Chatham Square, Vista Way, and The Commons.  (There are a big bunch of YouTube videos of apartment tours available, so it’s easy to check out the complexes in advance.)

Apartments house 2 to 6 (or more) in 1 to 3-bedroom units.  Joseph’s two priorities in making housing requests were that he live someplace quiet(ish) and be allowed to consume adult beverages in his apartment.  Disney is, as one would assume, extremely dedicated to prohibiting underage drinking.  Participants 21 or over who do not wish to be in an apartment where adult beverages may be consumed can request Wellness housing.  Participants under 21 will automatically be placed in Wellness living and the rules are strict – simply having a souvenir wine or shot glass would be a serious offense and could cause a program termination.  Disney performs regular apartment inspections.  Apartments are expected to be clean with beds made, dishes put away, no clothes on the floor, trash emptied, etc.  Each housing complex has a Service Center that, among other services, makes things like irons/ironing boards, vacuums, brooms, mops, basic tools, games, books, sports equipment, and more available to borrow.  Joseph found this to be very helpful in deciding what (and what not) to pack.

DCP participants report for housing check-in at an assigned time.  This seems to avoid that massive move-in crowd confusion seen on college campuses.  Arrival times are staggered and Disney correspondence firmly states that new program participants are expected to arrive on time at their scheduled time.  In Joseph’s case, he reported to the Chatham Square complex at 11:00 am on Monday, January 29th.  He said the process of checking in took about 10 minutes.  During check-in, Joseph received his housing ID and his apartment location and key.At check-in, Joseph was giving an inventory checklist of items he should find provided in his apartment (like dishes, pots, pans, etc.).  He reported a couple of missing items and they were immediately provided.  Once Joseph found his apartment, moved his things in, made his bed, and checked off the inventory list, he was ready to explore local grocery options.    Joe’s roommate, Logan, arrived later (also sans parents) and repeated the process.  By early evening, Joseph had grocery shopped at the nearby Publix and had treated himself to dinner at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs.  Arrival day went off without a hitch!

Scheduled throughout the rest of the first week were two short meetings (Onboarding and Housing Welcome Sessions) followed by Traditions training on Saturday.  In the next DCP post, look for more details on these and other training sessions.  When he wasn’t in training, Joseph made the most of his WDW annual pass and spent as much time as possible hanging out in the parks and making new friends.

My advice for parents

Please try your best to let your young adult offspring do this on their own.  I’ve heard parents refer to these program participants as “kidults” and I worry that thinking of (and treating them) as half-child, half-adult may be doing them a disservice. (I am 100% positive Joseph would be offended if we referred to him thus.)  If they can’t navigate this process on their own, maybe it’s not the right time to participate.  I realize some parents spend several days up to the entire first week of the program at Walt Disney World helping their child move in, shop, clean, and get to training.  It may be better to step back and let them get acclimated, make friends, and navigate their surroundings independently (without any added parental pressure).  I found so many resources on the internet (blogs, videos, Facebook groups), I was completely at ease and knew what both Joseph (and his parents) could expect from the Disney College Program experience.For program participants without a car, utilizing the Disney-provided transportation may require a little practice to ensure arriving when and where necessary on time.  The going won’t always be easy, but coping skills (and a corresponding sense of accomplishment) that will serve these young adults well are often developed when problems are solved without parental involvement.   

I realize every person’s needs are different.  In our case, Joseph is very independent and not prone to serious bouts of homesickness.  He’s lived away from home for the better part of the last three years and has a good bit of work experience.  We’re 100% confident he has the skills he needs to be successful in the Disney College Program.  So, while we miss him like crazy right now, we know he’s busy achieving his dreams and so far, based on his very happy texts and phone calls, having a the time of his life.




Goodbye Joe!  He’s Off to the Disney College Program

Joseph was mighty stealthy about making his application to the Spring 2018 Disney College Program.  He’s well aware of how many apply (tens of thousands) and how few are chosen.  I know he didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up in case this wasn’t meant to be.  This time in Joseph’s life was years in the making and we’re proud and excited that he’s seeing a long-term dream come true.

Goodbye Joe!  He’s Off to the Disney College Program

Acceptance to the Disney College Program involves a three-step process:  Online application, Web-based Interview, and finally a telephone interview.  We didn’t find out Joseph had even applied until his telephone interview was scheduled.  By then his excitement was high…as were his nerves.  He’d made it to the final stage!  His concern was that unlike face-to-face meetings where you can appear confident, make eye contact, and gage the interviewer’s reactions via body language and facial expression – telephone interviews are tough!  So much to convey with just the sound of your voice.Disney Simba Magic Shot

The big day came and Joseph did his best to express the reasons he feels he’s a good match for the College Program.  Aside from describing himself as a dedicated hard-worker, he wanted the interviewer to know his history with Disney.  He’d grown up vacationing in the Disney Bubble and understands all too well the crucial impact Disney Cast Members have on guest experiences.  He would love the opportunity to pay it forward by helping to make Disney Magic for other families.

When he got the email that he’d been accepted to the Disney College Program he was absolutely delighted.  And so were we.  While I’ve tried my best to be hands-off through the process of filling out online paperwork, requesting housing, preparing to move over 800 miles from home…it hasn’t been easy.  I’d say I’ve (mostly) been successful.  Joe might disagree.  I should get bonus parenting points for trying this hard!

Luckily, for both College Program participants and their parents, there are helpful Facebook groups to join that can be great resources.  As one would expect, they can also be full of drama at times as separation anxiety strikes all parties involved.  The benefits are worth being witness to a few uncomfortable virtual meltdowns.WDW Mickey Pretzel

If we’ve learned anything so far it’s this:  For every person who was accepted to one of these coveted positions, there are hundreds who were not.  If you are interested in the Disney College Program, please understand that roles are assigned rather than chosen and most have nothing to do with prior work experience or personal preference.  While working in a custodial position or in a parking lot or an Auto Plaza booth or in food service or in a gift shop might not sound like glamorous positions, remember how many other people would have loved to be there!  There are many blogs and vlogs out there by Disney College Program participants who enjoyed every minute of their program experience in one of the roles I mentioned.Meg and Joe at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Now…Joseph’s off on a new Disney adventure and we can’t wait to see how it goes!  If you have any questions about the application process or what comes next, Joseph and I will do our best to help!

Here’s a picture of Joseph just this morning as he masters the “Disney Look”!