If one door closes, just knock on the Magic Kingdom Casting door and hope it opens.
If anyone else is as confused and overwhelmed as I was, then this is an essential read. I have worked several jobs throughout my life, but until applying to the Disney college program for the first time, I had never had to work with such a large company based across the country from where I lived. I found myself constantly second guessing if I was doing everything correctly, and I always worried that I was missing a deadline I didn’t know about.
In an attempt to make this process as easy to navigate as possible, I have assembled a complete time-line full of tips and tricks to help you make it to Orlando for your arrival day successfully.
To make this as easy to read and understand as possible I have split the process into three phases.
Phase One: Applying
The first thing you’re going to need to do is apply. You can do this at https://jobs.disneycareers.com/disney-college-program .
Depending on what program you are hoping to participate in (Fall or Spring) you will need to apply at certain times. For example, if you’re hoping to participate in the Spring 2020 program you will want to apply sometime between late August and late December.
There are certain requirements you will need to meet in order to be eligible to apply. If you want an in depth description of these you can go to https://disneyprogramsblog.com/about/disney-college-program/disney-college-program-application-requirements/ .
To keep it simple the requirements are:
- you need to be a college student with at least one semester under your belt OR you need to have graduated from college within the last 12 months
- you need to be at least 18 years old by the time you start your program
- you need to have unrestricted work authorization
It’s important to note that the application requirements are different for international students and culinary program applicants. If you fall into either of those categories, I recommend you follow the link I listed above for more information.
If you’ve made it this far congratulations! It may not seem like much, but so many people do not make it to this point in the process (including me the second time I applied, and the first time I didn’t make it past the WBI).
If you have submitted your application, haven’t received an email with a link to the WBI, and your dashboard says “in progress” or “submission” do not lose hope! This means you still have a chance. Some people wait over a month after submitting an application before getting the WBI and some people get it 24 hours after submitting an application. Do not get discouraged if you wait a long period of time. This does not mean you are less likely to get offered a role.
The Web-Based Interview is essentially a questionnaire. I like to compare it to those personality tests you take in middle school that are supposed to help you pick what career you want to pursue. It asks questions such as, “How often are you late to work?” and you are asked to select an answer ranging from ALWAYS to ALMOST ALWAYS to SOMETIMES to ALMOST NEVER to NEVER.
The entire process can take up to 45 minutes, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to complete the entire thing. Also, make sure you have a secure internet connection for the entire time it takes you to complete the WBI.
As mentioned before, I did not pass the WBI the first time I applied. I clearly learned from my mistakes, because I ended up getting offered a role by my third time applying.
So here’s what I learned:
- Be yourself. Some of these questions are designed to help Disney get to know you and get an idea of what you are best suited for as an employee and as a roommate.
- Lean towards the extremes. If you’re debating between selecting ALMOST NEVER and NEVER, choose NEVER. Disney wants to hire people who are not wishy/washy. They need employees with good decision making skills, and answering SOMETIMES too frequently can make it seem like you have a hard time taking a stance and sticking by it.
- Honesty is the best policy….except when completing the WBI. Does this mean I am suggesting you flat out lie to a company you want to work for so that they hire you? No, absolutely not. However, if they ask “How often are you in a happy mood?” it’s better to answer ALWAYS rather than SOMETIMES or even ALMOST ALWAYS. Is anyone ALWAYS in a happy mood? I highly doubt it. And yet, I am sure plenty of other people (who are trying to get the same spot in the program that you want), are telling Disney that they are ALWAYS in a happy mood on their WBI.
THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…or have anxiously been losing sleep over.
This is your time to shine. Until now, you’ve just been another name on an application. This is your chance to show them your personality, so do your best to take full advantage of that.
When you get an email regarding your phone interview, you are able to select a date and time for it. Make sure you will be available for the slot you choose. I would recommend being ready for your interview 15 minutes before your scheduled time.
If you want to prepare for your interview, there are countless YouTube videos about it. There are some great videos out there, but I wouldn’t recommend watching videos of people’s actual interviews. I tried this myself, and found that it wasn’t very helpful. It can be quite time consuming, and it’s unlikely you will get the same questions as they got.
Once you’ve completed your phone interview, it can be a bit of a waiting game. Some people hear back quickly, and some people wait awhile before hearing of a decision. The only thing you can do is make sure you are checking your DASHBOARD regularly (your DASHBOARD is where you went to submit your application). Smash that refresh button as often as you feel necessary. Patience is key when it comes to the Walt Disney Company, as you will soon find out.
Accept or Deny the Offer
You did it! Before doing anything else, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. This is something you should be proud of. Statistics say that only 1 in every 5 applicants gets offered a role!
Now, check out your role. Is this something that you will be happy doing for an entire semester? Remind yourself that you will be doing this job for 40 hours a week for several months. If you think you will hate that, then don’t feel pressured to accept the offer.
The reason I stress this is that you will be asked to pay over $300 in fees when you accept the offer. These fees are used to cover housing and other expenses during your first week of the program when you are not yet working. You want to make sure you don’t accept the offer on a whim, pay the dues, and then change your mind.
If you were offered a role that you’re confident you’ll love then once again, CONGRATS!! Now all you have to do is pay your dues and pick out your arrival/departure dates. Once that is done, it’s time for phase two!
Phase Two: The Waiting Game
Yay you did it!
Now you just have to sit around and wait for a few months with little to no information about what to expect when you get there. For me, this was the hardest part.
You’ve excepted your role, but you have no idea where you will get placed. You’ve paid your dues, but have no idea where you’re going to be living or who you will be living with. All you can do is wait it out, and do not let your imagination run too wild. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help pass the time.
In my experience, I received an email asking me for additional information regarding Human Resources, payroll, and taxes almost immediately after completing my acceptance steps. I recommend filling this out as promptly as you can because your hiring process can not be completed until you have done so.
My next recommendation is to start joining Facebook groups. For example, I was a part of the group “Disney College Program Fall/Fall Advantage 2019.” These groups allow you to get to know fellow CPs before arriving to WDW. You can also use this as a tool to help you find potential roommates (for my program, CPs were allowed to link up with a maximum of 3 other people; however depending on available housing that number could shrink). You will have PLENTY of time to get to know people and find roomies before you are allowed to fill out your housing requests, so do not feel like you need to rush.
CAUTION: although the Facebook groups are a great resource for social networking and getting answers to questions take everything people say with a grain of salt. Everyone has different experiences and opinions. Do not get disheartened by a few negative comments. I would recommend trying to avoid the drama at all costs, and remember that these could potentially be future coworkers so you want to keep things somewhat professional. Also, remember that if you have questions regarding Disney policy, the DCP website is always the most reliable resource for you.
About two months before my arrival date, I received an email with the Pre-Arrival checklist. This is a friendly reminder that there are a few things you should be preparing before heading to Orlando. One of those things is your Form I-9 Acceptable Documents. These are documents that you must need to bring with you in order to prove you are eligible for employment. If you have misplaced these items, you will want to make sure you begin the process of getting new copies a few months before your arrival date to ensure you will have them in time. These documents could be your passport, permanent resident card, employment authorization document card, etc.
If you have further questions about what I-9 documents you need, you can check out the official Disney blog at: https://disneyprogramsblog.com/employment-eligibility-documents/
This is also the time at you should submit any medical or religious accommodations that you may need during the program.
LIFE GUARDS: As a lifeguard, you could also use this time to practice for the swim test. For the WDW lifeguard deep water test, you are required to swim 200 meters, retrieve a 10 lb brick from the bottom of an 8 ft pool (using a feet-first surface dive), and tread water with your hands out of the water for 2 minutes. The shallow water test is much less intense. However, you do not know where you will be placed before arriving, so it’s better to be prepared for the deep water test just in case.
Also, remember if you are still in college this waiting period is when you should be working things out with your school in regards to whether or not you can get credit for your program or not.
- Phase Three: THINGS ARE GETTING REAL PEOPLE
Finally, the wait is over…well almost.
You finally get to fill our your housing/roommate preferences 10-20 days before your arrival date.
If you are bringing a car, you will be able to purchase a vehicle decal before arriving. This is your parking pass for housing. I received an email reminder about it just over 2 weeks before arriving. For my program it cost $85. To purchase a decal you will need to log into DORMS and click on “events”. The decal is considered an “event” even though there is no physical event you need to attend. You register for this event, pay the fee, and then pick up your decal at check in.
One week before your arrival date, you will receive your itinerary. They typically start sending the emails at around noon, but they can be sent earlier or later. Just be sure to check your email often that day if you are anxiously anticipating it. I received my email at 12:48.
In your itinerary you will receive:
- your housing complex
- your role location
- your check-in time
- your casting date and time
- your traditions date and time
Because I will be a lifeguard, I also had information on when and where I need to go for drug testing and for my swim test included in my itinerary.
Once you get your itinerary and find out what time you are going to be checking in you will want to make sure you have figured out a travel plan. For example, my check-in time was at 8:00 am on Monday August, 12. Therefore, I made reservations at a resort for Sunday night so I didn’t have to worry about rushing to get to Orlando bright and early Monday morning.
Before arriving you will also be required to watch a series of “pre-arrival videos.” The purpose of these videos is similar to the purpose of this blog: provide information and resources to help you be less confused. Watching these videos takes about 30 minutes. I recommend actually sitting down and paying attention to them. The information they give you in the videos is really beneficial!
You will want to start packing. If you’re unsure of what to pack, check out my Top 20 Things You’ll Kick Yourself for Forgetting* list and my Top 20 Things to Leave at Home list.
Most importantly, take this time to spend as much time with your family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. The more happy memories you make before you leave, the better you will feel about being away from them all for so long.