Disney College Program: Making Magic Since 1981


The chance to work and live in Disney may seem like a fairy tale dream, but for some, this dream has become a reality. In 1981, Disney Parks and Resorts established a program to give college students the opportunity to live, learn, and earn, most commonly known as the Disney College Program.

The Disney College Program began in 1981 in the sunshine state of Florida. The college program was founded by the Disney company because they felt the need to expand their company in a unique way. At the time the program was called the Magic Kingdom College Program. The reasoning behind this is due to the amount of parks Walt Disney World had open at the time. Only the Magic Kingdom was open, so it was only logical to it this particular founding name.  The program began with 200 participants for the first round. Participants are allowed to stay for one semester with the option to extend into another semester long program. The application process started with a mail in application and an informed decision was mailed back to people if they were accepted or rejected.

The main mission given to the Disney College Program is to “live, learn, and earn”. In order to accomplish the Disney company’s goal, these three ideals were set in stone from the beginning and continue to be a prominent part of the Disney College Program today.

The established idea of the Disney College Program was to have students across the country live on Disney property and work for the company for a period of time. The Disney College Program then decided they needed to provide housing for the students to live in. Snow White’s Village was the first established housing complex for program participants to live in. The housing complexes consisted of trailers on the outskirts of Disney Property. Throughout the years as the popularity of the program grew, more housing complexes were added. Vista Way, Chatham Square, Patterson Court, and The Commons are the complexes that have been added throughout the years. Each complex offers something unique to the program experience. Housing events have been added to the program such as grocery bingo, fall dances, and water park nights to help the overall experience of their participants.

The Disney College Program understood that a participant’s experience should have a learning basis. The Disney College program decided to implement classes into their program. As a college program participant, Katie Lindsey, said, “I love that we have the opportunity to take classes during our time in Disney. I was able to learn more about the company I was working for in a fun and exciting environment.” The classes they decided to offer range from the Disney history basics to how Disney manages their business ethics. The learning aspect is an important and crucial part to understanding the company one works for.

The main purpose of the establishment of the Disney College Program is to work for a Fortune five hundred company. Participants are given specific jobs within the Walt Disney Resort. It began in the Magic Kingdom and throughout time jobs began to spread across the other three parks, two waterparks, and multiple resorts.  Marissa Schwadner, a past Disney College Program Participant, said, “My leaders in my location always tell us that we upholding a valuable legacy no matter how big or small of the role. Cast members are always encouraging and reminding of the values this company was founded on and the importance of upholding them during work.” The jobs have evolved for college program participants in order to accommodate multiple specialties.

The Disney College Program continues to serve out its founding purpose to this day. The program has grown to a massive size of approximately 9000 participants a year, and it now includes Disneyland and an International Program.  Katie Thompson, a former Walt Disney World cast member said, “It is so amazing to watch the growth of the Disney College program throughout the years. I have been able to watch how the Disney College Program has positively helped the growth and up keeping of the Walt Disney Parks.” Little did the Disney compant know what a large and valuable part college students play in the upholding of Walt Disney’s magical traditions.

Prospective applicants for the program are now encouraged to seek more information from the Disney College Program online site. “The accessibility given to possible program participants is something n one should pass up. The opportunity is at their fingertips.”, said Schwadner. By the looks of it, the Disney College Program has no plans of slowing down. The magical history of the Disney College Program will be one that lives on forever.


Share Button