Isabella Green applied 10 times to the Disney College Program.
Rachel Wilkes applied five semesters in a row.
Holly McConnell applied just for practice and was accepted.
All three Trevecca students learned this semester that they will be living their dream as they work at the Happiest Place on Earth next semester.
The Disney College Program is a semester-long paid internship at Walt Disney World or Disneyland where students work at the theme parks or resorts. Students can choose to take college-level coursework and live in company-sponsored housing with other students from around the world. There are around 10,000 internships granted every semester. Some jobs are in operations, entertainment, lodging, retail, recreation, food and beverage.
Wilkes was accepted into the custodial position, Green was accepted into merchandise and McConnell will be a lifeguard.
The program offers students a chance to gain on the job work experience and the opportunity to meet and live with people from all over the country and potentially the world. Depending on their role, interns will receive an hourly rate of pay. Students can also choose to take credited class courses or attend seminars throughout their stay.
Wilkes has known about the Disney College Program since seventh grade and was waiting until she was able to apply. She has been to Disneyland once and Disney World seven times. She’s kept the goal in the back of her mind as she’s studied and worked during college.
“I was never intentionally doing anything but I did always have it in the back of my brain, [thinking,] ‘I wonder if this will help me?’” said Wilkes.
The application process includes completing one semester of college, turning in a resume and filling out a questionnaire. Once approved, a 30-minute web interview is held. The final stage is a phone interview, followed by either an acceptance or rejection email.
Three weeks after Wilkes’ phone interview she was sitting in the Bud Robinson building when she received her acceptance email.
“I literally started sobbing,” said Wilkes.
Wilkes will be working a custodian position. Her job description includes sweeping and general cleaning, emptying trash cans and picking up debris. At first, she was discouraged about her position. She reached out to alumni of the program with questions through a Disney College Program Facebook page, which made her excited to start at Disney next semester.
Alums with similar jobs said they loved the position because they were always helping out guests for directions, or any possible questions, she said.
Green, a junior at Trevecca, had a spontaneous interview process while with her parents sitting in a booth at Chili’s.
Green had one week of anticipation until she got her acceptance letter while doing some retail therapy at Forever 21. She immediately hustled her way to the Disney store at Opry Mills to treat herself for getting accepted to the college program.
“I was in the dressing room and I saw that my phone had an email that had ‘Congratulations.’ I just started bawling in the dressing room and no one knew what was going on,” said Green.
Green will be working in the merchandise department. This job and the training will allow her to jump around the four different parks in Disney World.
Green, a physics major, sees this opportunity to have the foot in the door to becoming an Imagineer intern. An Imagineer invents new concepts or technology to improve the Walt Disney theme parks.
“One reason why I decided to do the college program is that it’s your “in” to Disney. Most employees, unless they have good connections, started in the college program. If I want to be an Imagineer for Disney I need to start here,” said Green.
While working 60 hours per week, Green plans on taking online classes through Trevecca just to stay on top of academics.
McConnell, a junior at Trevecca, had a different experience when applying for the program.
McConnell applied just for practice and had the huge surprise to actually get accepted on her first try. McConnell doubted that she would get accepted, she waited to tell her parents until she passed her phone interview.
“I heard about the Disney College Program a few years ago, I knew it would not hurt to apply,” said McConnell. “I did not think I would be able to get in my first time, let alone have the opportunity to go with my complicated academic schedule.”
When McConnell got the acceptance email she was so dazed that her boyfriend had to read it to her in order to comprehend the acceptance.
“At that point, while I was still crying, I knew that I wanted to try to make this happen. My disbelief that I would be able to get in was no longer stopping me from going,” said McConnell.
McConnell will need to pass the swim test to secure her post as a lifeguard. Her location has not been set yet but she is very excited to participate anywhere they place her.
Wilkes, Green and McConnell all have countdown apps on their phone that counts down the days until they leave.
“I am unbelievably excited. I know my friends and family have to be sick of me talking about it. It also has been very difficult to focus on my school work because I just want to talk to my new friends and plan out my new Disney apartment,” said McConnell.