5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Disney College Program
Guests Come First
My number one rule while working at Walt Disney World was to always put the guest first. I have been on vacation to Walt Disney World at least twenty five times or more. I know what it is like to be a guest at Walt Disney World. Every vacation I have ever been on has been absolutely magical. Sure there are usually a few hiccups on our trips whether it be a ride closed for refurbishment or freakishly long lines, our overall experience is always magical. The one hiccup that makes me more upset than any other is running into grumpy Cast Members. Grumpy Cast Members are totally avoidable simply by the Cast Member remembering that they are there for the guest.
We all know guests do stupid things in the eyes of the Cast Member. It is very easy to snap judgment on a guest because they did not read a sign that is right in front of their face or cannot figure out how to park a stroller but if you take a second to remember that you are there to make the guests vacation the best experience it can be, you will realize that in that very moment you now have the opportunity to make a difference to that guest.
Disney Cast Members have the ability to make magic but that can only happen when you put the guest first. My advice is to treat every guest like they are part of your family. If you always put the guest before yourself you will enjoy your job even more and have some truly magical work experiences.
Lose Yourself in Your Work and Follow Your Leaders
Your Disney College Program is going to fly by you. When it is over you want to be able to end it with no regrets. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is always trying to get out of work every chance they get so they can party more or just not be working. Don’t get me wrong you should definitely party it up down there however you like to party but you should put your work first. This may sound like I am saying to give up more of your free time however what I am really saying is that when you put your work first you will free your mind to be able to enjoy your job instead of counting down the minutes until you get out of work.
When you are happy at work your managers will notice and then when that time comes when you really need something from them like a day off, early release or a recommendation for an extension, they are going to be happy to help you. Also when you get along with your manager you will look forward to work that much more.
I did two Disney College Program Internships. The first one I did was in spring of 2002 working Fastpass for multiple rides at the Magic Kingdom. The second program was from fall of 2010 through spring of 2011 working the Wildlife Express Train at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There are many different aspects I could compare between my two Internship’s but for now I want to focus on comparing my work experience between the two.
On my first Disney College Program working Fastpass at Magic Kingdom I considered myself blessed because I got to move between 3 different rides every day and I had two areas with three rides each to move between. On any given day I would move between either Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan and Haunted Mansion or Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. I loved my positions and had amazing coordinators. The problem though was that I did not really stop to enjoy my work as much as I wish I would have. I was always looking for ER’s (Early Release’s from a shift) and I took lots of days off work. I pushed the point system to the limit. Disney has a point system for how many days you can take off in a certain amount of days and I worked that thing to my advantage all the time.
When my program was over I left with some amazing experiences that I would not want to ever change however I do feel like I should have put more emphasis into my work experience. Looking back I wish that I would have picked up some extra shifts especially when they did like the overnight lock-ins and things like that. I think those would have been fun experiences.
On my second Disney College Program I worked at the Wildlife Express Train at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The biggest difference between my first program and my second program was that on my second program was I was there to work first and play second. My goals were to put the guests first and to do whatever my managers and coordinators asked me to do. With this attitude I excelled further than I thought I would with personal confidence and wanting to be at work.
I loved my job and never once considered it a day of work. I was able to extend my program and stay though spring without a doubt because I had such a good record card. I ended with two perfect CP evaluations and my managers awarded me the Disney ServicEAR Award. I was truly touched that they chose to award me the Disney ServicEAR Award. They told me that they do not usually give this award to a CP so that was just icing on the cake. I write this not to brag but to illustrate that the difference in my attitude is what made the difference in my work experience and that is proof that our experiences are what we make them to be.
I had a lot of fun and got a long with pretty much everyone because I chose to be a team player. Everyone you work with is going to have quirks. I would encourage you to love the people you work with because of their uniqueness. Just like you should think about the guest like they are family you should also think about your fellow Cast Members as family.
The bottom line is that your attitude is going to determine whether or not you love your Disney College Program experience. The way you can control getting the most out your program is controlling your attitude for the better. I am willing to bet that if you are someone who did not or does not enjoy their Disney College Program experience it is because of your attitude. Always getting mad because you had to work long hours and you do not agree with Disney’s rules or the Housing’s rules. Choose to work hard and have a positive attitude. If you do you will have the best possible Disney College Program experience I guarantee it.
Do Not Complain
On the Disney College Program there are a lot of rules to follow. Know now before you even sign up that you are signing up for all these rules. When you get on your program you are going to meet lots of people who complain all the time about how they do not like this rule or that rule. You will also meet full time Cast Members who complain about their job and spread rumors. I can tell you from my experience I have never heard Disney changing their rules because of CP’s complaining. Complaining is a waste of energy and you are not going to change things by whining about rules.
I definitely did not agree with every rule they had but I did not complain about it. For example: one of the silliest rules they have in my opinion is that at 1 or 2 in the morning you have to be out of any of the housing complexes you do not live in. So if you live in Chatham Square and are visiting your friend in Vista Way you have to be out of there at the specified time or you could get termed (terminated) from the program. Every Disney College Program student signs the same paperwork. We are all under the exact same rules so why do we have to have a curfew for when we have to leave at all?
Sure I pointed out that this is a silly rule but I would not waste my time and energy getting upset over it. Disney is not going to change this rule because I did not like it. They have it in place for a reason and it does not matter whether I liked it or not I agreed to it when I signed up.
Stay focused on what you can do, not what you cannot do. I will say it again do not waste your time complaining or being upset with the rules you have much more fun and exciting things you should be doing in your very short Disney College Program. Your attitude will determine whether you have an amazing magical Disney College Program or a terrible and bad Disney College program. Choose positivity and make the most of it!
Make the Most of Your Time
Unless you already live in Orlando then you do not have access to all the amazing things there are to do in and around Walt Disney World. Being on the Disney College Program also means that it is most likely going to be the only time in your life when you are going to be as free to do as much as you can. Take advantage of everything there is to do there and do not waste a single moment.
My first program I feel like I spent a lot more time just hanging around which was fine at the time I guess but my second program was jam packed with so many more activities than my first. I made sure to go into the parks as much as possible. Almost every night after work I would get a group of friends together and we would go to a park or go resort hopping or Downtown Disney. You could spend all of your time off going to places at Disney World and always be entertained. There are a million things to do just at Walt Disney World I was never once bored. However, you do not have to stay just at Disney World. There are plenty of other places you can go to near Walt Disney World. There is Universal Studios, Island of Adventures, SeaWorld, multiple beaches close by, Waterparks, carnival like thrill ride places, Dinner theater shows, Piano Bars, Dance clubs, Concert venues and tons more.
Get Enough Sleep
Make sure you get enough sleep. I always made sure to go to bed 8 hours before I had to be up for work. It is hard to stick to a sleep schedule because your hours for work are most likely going to be different each day. Your body wants to be on a schedule and denying it a regular sleep schedule adds stress. You can help though by doing everything you can to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night before you have to work. I would always laugh at my friends who would be so tired at work because they stayed up partying late the night before. It is not worth it because what happens is you are going to be tired all day at work making that day a terrible day at work. Then when you get home from work you are going to want to just go to sleep. Some of my friends would waste a whole day for a night of partying. You can go out and party and still get the sleep you need just be smart about it. The nights before your days off are the best nights to party hard. Then you can sleep in if you really need to. However I recommend getting up as early as you can on your days off. Use your days off to go out and do something. Do not just sit around your apartment all the time. When you get up early and get going right away you make the day feel longer which is what you want from your days off right? Do whatever you can to get the right amount of sleep. Try to always stick to at least 7 hours of sleep and no more than 8 hours. Being well rested will give you the energy you need to feel happy at work and play.
I realize that it can be hard to stick to your own schedule too because your friends will want to go and do fun stuff on nights you do not have off but they do. Here is how I dealt with that. I decided that I had my own schedule and I was going to stick to it no matter what. So if some friends wanted to go do something on a night I needed to get my rest I would simply tell them no. Easy enough right? Then when I wanted to go do something according to my schedule I would make that decision to go whether anyone wanted to come or not. I would tell my friends for example “I am going to the Magic Kingdom after work at five so you should come along.” I would go whether anyone wanted to come or not just because I wanted to go. After a little while of doing this, my best friend who was my partner in crime down there and I always had a large group of people joining up with us to go wherever we went. The trick is to be the planner of the event instead to the invitee. Once your friends get used to you planning out everything they will just expect it. I mean it is definitely easier to just follow the group when you go out. There were definitely plenty of times where I would forget to call someone or just assumed that they knew what the plan was. It can be frustrating coordinating a large group of people meeting up but it always worked out one way or another. This plan worked for me and it may not work for you but I wanted to give an example of my strategy to help get you thinking about a strategy for you. Also I hope I did not come across as someone trying to manipulate my friends because that was not it at all. It was just me making my decisions about my time limits ahead of time and sticking to them. And there were many times I would change were I was going to go because more people wanted to go but it fit in my time tables. It was not about controlling where and what we did it was about controlling how late I was out which determined how much sleep I was going to get.
Bring a Car
I know not everyone can afford to bring a car with them on their Disney College Program but if you can I highly recommend it. First off let me say not to worry if you do not have a car on your program, you can still get around using the bus’s Disney provides for you as well as you will make friends with people who have a car.
On my first program I did not have a car and it was fine. I got everywhere I needed to go for work, play and groceries. I met people who had cars that would drive me or sometimes let me borrow their car. I always was able to get to where I needed and wanted to go. The bus is also a great place to meet new people. I met so many people while riding the bus. The downside to riding the bus is you have to keep to the bus schedule and sometimes the bus is behind schedule (not often though). Also depending on your start time for you work you may have to get to work earlier than you would prefer, but usually not more than 30-45 minutes early.
On my second program I brought my car. I loved having the freedom to go anywhere I wanted at any time I wanted. This made it easier for me to do everything I wanted to do while I was a CP. I really loved that I did not have to leave early for work like I did when I took the bus and when work was over I could go straight home to get ready for the night. Sometimes I would bring clothes with me so after work I could just change in my car and go straight to a park to play. Having a car still meant I got to meet new people like I did when I rode the bus too. You meet people all the time and you get to help them out by giving them rides when you can. Be careful though not to be taken advantage of. You will have to tell people no sometimes. I also had a season pass to Universal Studios so I could drive there whenever I wanted to. I also had a season pass to Universal Studios on my first program. My roommate had a car and a season pass so he would drive us there all the time.