The Disney College Program: Choosing Your Role and Your Home
If you're dreaming about what it might be like to work for Disney, you are probably imagining yourself hard at work in the parks making magic. Disney calls their jobs “Roles” and all their workers are “Cast Members” whether you are in entertainment or not. And your work uniform is a “costume”. It’s because all Cast Members have their own part to play in the bigger show at hand. They explain a lot better at the training you go to (called “Traditions”, see a pattern here?) So I am really not going in depth, just know that when I throw those words out that’s what I mean.
So what type of role are you imagining yourself in? Disney does have quite a lot of rides, shops, and places to eat. If you’ve ever been as a guest you might think that those are really the only jobs (and the most important ones) that Disney has to offer. But when you apply to the program you’ll probably notice way more roles exist in more departments than you may have previously imagined.
I only worked in two positions during my internships, but with information from my roommates, friends, and information online I’m going to give the best advice about choosing a role that will best fit your personality and the experience you want to get out of Disney.
Here's my list, probably non-inclusive I think I missed a few.
Quick Service food and beverage
Full-Service food and beverage
Also, some of these fall under the same “umbrella” so to speak. So like, a park greeter and hospitality (hotel front desk) are of the “operations” heading. So is parking attendant I think. Clearly, it’s near impossible to name every single separate job title. I’ll try to keep this as general as possible.
When applying online for the program, before you do the online test, there is a page that lists all the roles with empty boxes next to them that you can “check” if it's a role you would be interested in.
As someone that had worked in food service as a young teen in high school, I was not about to do that again, even at Disney. I ignored the box next to “quick service food and beverage.” That’s the name they give to the cashiers, servers, and dining room attendants at the quick (That's to say, the non-table service restaurants. Pay at the registers, wait for your food, take it to a table, and eat. Repeat. Usually, repeat multiple times because let’s face it, Disney food is crazy good)
I also sure was not going to be a part of custodial if it meant cleaning up bathrooms and vomit (big hint, that role absolutely positively DOES require that) so I ignored that box as well.
I also did not put a check next to “merchandise” because I wasn't a big fan of retail sales, and I tend to get nervous when handling money due to my abhorrent math skills. (Yeah, I know the register tells you the change to give back. That doesn’t help my nervousness.)
Those are the only roles I vividly remember not checking, but I believe I did check all the others. Even full-service food beverage, because I remembered reading online during my research of the program that a cast member in the Full-Service F&B role would only be a host and not a waiter. Sounded good to me! Disney doesn’t put their interns in a tipped position, like bellmen, waiters, or bartenders.
During my phone interview, the woman told me she saw that I hadn’t chosen quick service or custodial, and she asked me again if I was sure I didn’t want to be considered for those roles. I reiterated to her firmly, that no, I did not want the ones I didn't check. And I wound up in attractions. Yay for me! Much more my speed.
There’s a chance that during your application process if you checked the box indicating that you would take a role in custodial or quick service, that they are going to put you there in some capacity. My ultimate advice is to NOT check all the boxes thinking that you have to check everyone or you won’t get hired. I didn’t do that, and I still did two programs. Just if you're like me and don’t want to clean toilets, even at Disney world, then don’t choose custodial.
Just don’t do something dumb like check ONE option. Let’s say, for example, you really want to be in entertainment. Well, don’t check only the entertainment box. Everyone applying for entertainment has to audition before their program starts, either in your city or a nearby one. If you get passed over for some reason or don’t nail the audition, you can still go, do the program in your second choice role and try out again. They have auditions at least once during each program that are open to everyone. If you check only entertainment and you don’t get an entertainment job, they may not offer you another position, because you didn’t check anything else.
Also, I have it on good authority that it's entirely possible to do what I just said. That is, audition, not get a part, but go to Disney in a different role, audition at open auditions and get cast! How do I know this? Well, a good friend of mine was first in custodial, auditioned, and wound up being good “friends” with Woody in the entertainment department!
So I’ve covered work roles. I may go into more detail in later posts if necessary, but what about housing options?
The college program has definitely loosened the reigns since my first program. During my first program no one was allowed to live anywhere but the designated CP apartments unless you were from the area (thus living at home) or had family that you would live with nearby and could PROVE that they had family that lived nearby. That was it.
I mean, they couldn't categorically force you to live there. You were free to live in an apartment of your own if you wanted. But if you didn't meet the above requirements they would still take rent money out of your paycheck.
During my second program three years later, they were allowing people to live in off-site apartments if they wanted with no restrictions as far as I could tell. I didn't have family nearby and didn't feel like apartment hunting or looking for roommates. Plus, I liked living in the apartments even if they charged way too much money. It was all part of the experience.
People have lots to say about the four different apartment complexes you can live in as a CP. Mostly, I would say that they all have their good and bad aspects, and not one of them is “better” in any way than the other. That's my honest opinion.
I’ll go over them as briefly as I can, mention some rumors about them, and try my best to tell you my unbiased opinion so you can make your own decisions regarding where to live if you are choosing to live on Disney property.
Let’s start with the OG complex. I am sure if you’ve been doing your own research about the college program you’ve already heard things about Vista. That it’s dirty. That it’s the “party” complex. That you go there to get drunk and do crazy things.
Okay, I lived in Vista both my programs. My first program, I listed Chatham first on my housing preference because that’s the complex people online said was the “best” one. I got put in Vista anyway. Now, my second program, I put Vista first as my preference and got placed there again. I extended my second program, and when I got reassigned they tried to move me to Chatham and I FREAKED and begged them to let me stay in Vista. The housing worker was surprised, to say the least. But he agreed and they let me stay.
No, I am not a partier. I like to have fun once in awhile, and during my second program, I was legal age so I was able to do so if I wanted to. But I did not go to any parties, just out once or twice during the whole program. My roommates weren’t loud, or dirty, or partiers. They remain some of my best friends to this day.
SoIs the complex dirty?
Well, it’s a little outdated. It was built in the 80’s for the workers who were completing EPCOT to live in. Does that make it dirty? If the people who are living there are dirty than yea, I’m sure it’ll look dirty. That goes for any complex.
There's a perfectly fine dishwasher, stove, fridge, furniture no better than any other complex, believe me. The pool is fine, clean and nice. (if you read something online about the Vista Way hot tub they took that out years ago, it's not even there anymore.)
See some below pictures I took from my first program
You have a library right at Vista where you can rent from a big supply of movies, books, games and check out a computer for use of a printer and scanner. (I believe the only other library is at Chatham and it's significantly smaller. But don’t quote me I never actually saw the other one.)
If you have classes, a lot of them are held in Vista. Vista is walkable to Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A and a nearby gas station. You can walk to CiCi’s Pizza and Applebee's and a few other restaurants and stores. Walgreens is right there and was my total hotspot for everything from makeup to food when I couldn’t get to Walmart, and it’s connected to a liquor store (if you're of age, and care about that type of thing.)
Vista is not an inherently bad complex. It’s near a lot of things and a variety of people live there. I literally wouldn’t live anywhere else if I went to do the program again. Now am I biased? I mean maybe. Maybe I would be singing a different tune if I lived in another complex and experienced it. But if you're going to Disney without a car (like me, both times) I can’t stress how convenient and a great location Vista is. It has a special place in my heart.
Also, I have to point out. Vista has no one or two bedroom apartments, I believe they are all three and four bedrooms. So no bunk bed worries!
Chatham Square is a perfectly lovely apartment complex. It’s newer, but further away from Vista. Maybe a mile or so at least. It’s located near the Commons and Patterson. I was never in a Chatham apartment, but I was there a few times for various CP events. Chatham is also near Mickey’s Retreat, a small activity park on a lake that you can take visiting family members for a picnic or activities when they are in town. They also have a pool, as all the complexes do.
Chatham was initially desirable because of their two bedroom apartments. They were large, had lots of floor space and only held four people total at double occupancy. Well, unfortunately, they are the ones that got the bunk beds. According to Disney housing’s official blog, bunk beds are in the single or double bedroom units.
I think that is referring to Patterson and Chatham only since I know Vista doesn't have any of those types. And I am maybe 90% sure that the Commons does not have one or two bedroom apartments, only three or more.
Major pluses, Chatham is walkable to the Orlando outlets. Also, I believe if your classes aren't at Vista then they are probably going to be at Chatham.
I frequently heard other CPs refer to Patterson as the “retirement home” referring to its quiet atmosphere. As the furthest complex away from everyone, a car is super helpful. Patterson doesn't have its own bus stop, so the CPs have to walk to Chatham’s and use theirs. I think technically you can walk to a nearby Publix’s grocery store from Patterson, but in my memory, it is a bit of a walk. I am sure there is action at Patterson if you want some. Just like any of the complexes.
Patterson is the newest build, so I hear they are nice in that respect. They also had very desirable one bedroom apartments, though to be honest, I don’t know if they are that desirable now due to the whole bunk bed thing.
During my second program, housing had readily started letting non-international CP’s live there. The Commons have good sized apartments, sometimes with two refrigerators if you are living in a four bedroom. They also have washer and dryers in unit, mostly due to the fact that many of the international CPs are on different programs than the regular CPs and are at Disney for a year or more.
Just a word of caution. If you are working somewhere else besides Epcot while living at The Commons, the buses may run on a weird schedule to pick you up there. Most international CPS are working at Epcot in one way or another, so Epcot buses run most frequently. I just knew of some CPS who worked weird hours, like early morning or late hours had issues getting buses to and from. But for all I know now, they fixed that problem.
The Commons is also walkable to the Orlando outlet mall.
In the end, make the decision on where to live for whatever reason you want. There’s plenty of information out there about the different housing options for the DCP. Just be sure you make an informed decision. Don’t believe all the negative rumors, especially the ones about Vista Way. You can have a great time in any of the apartments, they all have their perks and pros and cons. Pick the one you want, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t get placed in your first choice. I didn't, and in the end, it didn’t matter. You’ll have a great experience no matter what. The fun happens on the outside of the apartment grounds anyway.
Note: My views and opinions are entirely my own and do not reflect the Walt Disney College Program, Disney parks or any affiliated Disney company nor any organization or agency I currently work or previously have worked for. The blog is for entertainment purposes only.