Elly and Caroline Collins aren’t just sisters; they’re best friends, too. So when Elly suggested that they join the Disney College Program together, Caroline went right along. They left their family and boyfriends in Colorado for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live, work, and play with Mickey Mouse.
Two Girls and a Mouse Tale is both diary and tutorial. It offers essential advice on how to get accepted into the Disney College Program, and how to avoid the pitfalls of working for Disney and living in its pressure-cooker environment. But mostly it provides a fun, witty, intimate account of a year spent in the pixie dust trenches of Walt Disney World, taking you behind the scenes, through the theme parks, and out the front gate into the dorm-like Disney apartments and the warts-and-all College Program community.
Caroline and Elly open their diaries and share:
These two girls really do have a mouse tale to tell. You'll love their honesty, their humor, and most of all their enthusiasm for the happiest place on earth.
2Congratulations. You've Been Accepted!
5Working for the Mouse
6The Joys of Housekeeping, and Other Tall Tales
7Disney Housing Events, and Other Parties
8Fall Arrives at WDW
9Living the Dream
11Settling into Our Roles
12Not Ready to Say Goodbye
13October CP Moments
15Christmastime at WDW
16It's a Fun New Year
17A February Birthday
19March Madness aka Spring Break
20Winds from the East
Appendix A: Common Interview Questions
Appendix B: Packing List
Appendix C: Move-in Day Shopping List
Appendix D: Comparing the Fall and Spring DCP
Unless you decide to pursue a career as a migrant farmer, you will never work harder in your life than you will as a Disney College Program (DCP) intern. The hours are long and the working conditions brutal: you stand on your feet on concrete or tile floors for hours in sub-tropical sun, high heat, and high humidity, and you do it all for minimum wage pay.
And yet, Disney receives over 80,000 applications from college students around the world for their 8,000 annual DCP internship openings at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. If you wanted to work fast-food service for minimum wage, your local McDonalds is probably a lot closer than Disney World. So what is the draw, the ‘Disney Magic’, that lures thousands of college students to put their studies on hold for a semester or, in our case, for a whole year?
We are two sisters from Colorado, born three years apart. Elly, the older sister, is enrolled at Colorado State University studying for her master’s degree in public communications. Caroline, the younger sister, is enrolled at the University of Colorado-Boulder studying secondary education.
Our year working at Disney actually started 18 months before we arrived in Orlando in August 2013. In March of the previous year, Elly was attending Colorado State University when three Disney Campus Representatives came to CSU for a Job Fair. Disney Campus Representatives are former DCP interns who have completed at least one internship at Disney and are currently enrolled in college. They recruit for the DCP program (in a non-paid position) and feel passionate about all things Disney.
Elly went to the DCP presentation and was impressed with the earnestness of the Campus Representatives and how they felt the Disney College Program had changed their lives. One of them had applied four times before finally being accepted on his final attempt.
Elly talked to Caroline about what she had learned about the College Program and they agreed to apply together for the Fall 2012 semester. It is critical to apply as soon as the web links work and not to miss any deadlines. Disney does not accept late DCP applications. If you miss the application window (typically 2 weeks), you will have to wait until the next window opens, which could be as long as a year later.
There are several DCP internship programs operating at Disney World and Disneyland throughout the year.
In March 2012, we passed the initial DCP application process and were invited to take the multiple-choice web interview. It is about fifty questions, most of them having very obvious “best” answers. For example, if the question is: “In what work environment do you like to work?” the best answer is NOT “I work best by myself with no interruptions.” While that may be true, answering the questions like that will not advance you to the telephone interview stage. Disney isn’t looking for shy introverts to fill their DCP internships.
We both passed the web interview and within the week were invited to sign up for a twenty-minute phone interview with a Disney recruiter. We each had a very nice interviewer and knew we had nailed the questions. So imagine our surprise when we both got rejection emails about two weeks later. Just like 90% of the DCP internship applicants, we had been turned down by Disney. We could not believe it. We love Disney. We’ve vacationed at both Disney World and Disneyland many times and know everything about both parks. What did we do or say wrong during the phone interview?
If you are rejected for a DCP internship, you have to wait 6 months before applying again. A whole year went by when one day we noticed the DCP posting on Facebook that the applications link for the Fall 2013 semester was active. Once again, we applied to the program and were again invited via email to take the web interview. Again, we passed, and again we were invited to set up phone interviews.
But this time we were much better prepared. We reviewed our interview notes from last year and read several online blogs from DCP interns who had successfully gotten into the program.
As most DCP applicants do not have a lot of interviewing experience, we recommend that you read through the common interview questions we’ve compiled in Appendix A, and then google “disney college program interview questions” to find even more. Think about how you would answer each question. That’s what we did, and we were asked at least 15 of the most common questions, starting with: “Why do you want to work at Disney?” If you can’t answer that first important question, your phone interview will not go well.
Elly recently completed her Masters in Communications at Colorado State University. Her main motivation for doing the Disney College Program was the promise of unlimited pin trading! She plans to work in communications for a Fortune 500 company.
Caroline is studying history and secondary education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her love for all things Disney, and her desire to grow up to be a Disney princess, is why she applied to the Disney College Program. She plans to become a middle school social studies teacher in 2015.
We decided to do the DCP together because we saw this as our chance to spend a year living and traveling together, while sharing some amazing experiences as sisters and as best friends!
If you have a question for Elly and Caroline Collins that you would like to see answered here, please ask it here.
In this excerpt, from "The Joys of Housekeeping, and Other Tall Tales", Elly and Caroline Collins learn that Mickey likes it neat—or else.
We learned all about the monthly apartment inspections and what they entailed during our Disney Housing orientation meeting on day 2 of the program. Alongside the gated security area of each apartment complex is a bulletin board listing which buildings will be inspected within the next two weeks. It was never a surprise which week our apartment was scheduled to be inspected; we just didn’t know the exact day.
In our first and only all-roommates meeting, we went over food sharing (no), which shelves in the pantry would belong to whom, and who would get which kitchen cabinets, and then we discussed keeping the apartment clean and the upcoming first inspection. That was the last time we all were together at the same time and able to hold a meeting. Our six work schedules never lined up again.
Disney Housing sends a team of two people to inspect apartments. They walk around the entire apartment and open every drawer and cabinet in the kitchen, look in the microwave and the oven, and inspect the bedrooms and bathrooms. They are looking both for illegal items (drugs, drug paraphernalia, and, in the Wellness apartments, alcohol) and also disallowed items (candles, lighters, pets, etc.). They mark you off if the apartment is excessively dirty, if you have dirty dishes in the sink (which attracts insects), if the trash is overflowing, if the bathrooms haven’t been cleaned, if there are any nails in the wall, and so forth. It’s pretty straightforward.
By the time we got to the DCP in August, one of our roommates had been there since May doing the Fall Advantage program. She had been through three apartment inspections already. You might think that this would make her a pro at passing apartment inspections, but that was not the case at all.
About three weeks after we arrived, we noticed that the other roommates had somehow joined together and designated Caroline as the “Queen of the Dishwasher”. All four of them apparently thought that only Caroline should be responsible for loading the dishwasher, running the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher, and buying detergent for the dishwasher. If Caroline ran the dishwasher before leaving for work, she would come home to find that they had taken one plate or one glass out of the clean dishwasher, but not emptied it and put away all the cleaned dishes. If she was gone from the apartment for a few days, she would come home to a sink full of dirty dishes, literally every plate, glass, knife/fork/spoon in the apartment, all piled up dirty on top of each other. Despite many talks to the roommates and many, many friendly Post-it notes, they refused to have anything to do with the dishwasher. For five months.
Similarly, the four roommates had designated Elly as “Queen of the Vacuum” and also responsible for emptying the trash and recycling bins. Apparently, only Elly was allowed to walk over to the front office, check out a vacuum, vacuum the entire apartment, and return the vacuum. When the trash bin was full and the recycling bin was overflowing, they seemed to think that only Elly was capable of taking the full bags out to the trash area. Talks with the roommates and leaving little reminder notes went nowhere. One day Elly had had enough and point-blank asked one of the roommates to please take out the overflowing recycling bin. The roommate just looked her in the eye, said “No”, went into her bedroom, and closed the door. So frustrating.
So we were left with cleaning the apartment every week and especially before inspections. (Elly refused to vacuum the other roommates’ bedrooms, and when offered the vacuum to do it themselves, they always refused.) There were five inspections between August and December, and they were all the same: main space passed inspection, kitchen passed, bedroom #1 passed bedroom and failed bathroom, bedroom # 2 failed bedroom and failed bathroom, and bedroom #3 (ours) passed both bedroom and bathroom.
This is serious because if your apartment fails inspection, everyone in the apartment is fined $25 and the apartment is re-inspected within 72 hours. If no one cleans the apartment and it fails two more inspections that week, the whole apartment is terminated from the DCP. We both know CPs who were innocent of any wrongdoings but their whole apartment was terminated for things that were noted during the inspection.
The night before the October apartment inspection, Caroline was caught in a downpour when she was leaving work. When she got home, she dried off her black sneakers, put some paper towels in them, and put them in a warm oven for a few hours to dry them out. She turned off the oven before going to bed and was awoken by a pounding on the door at 9am the next morning. It was the inspectors. They did their usual of opening every drawer, cabinet, and door, and when they opened the oven door and saw Caroline’s sneakers in there, they almost threw a fit. They had never heard of anyone drying out shoes in an oven (thankfully it was off), and seriously debated if it was a notable offense or not. Because the oven was off and Caroline didn’t say that she had ever turned the oven on with her shoes in it, they decided to let it slide.
The inspectors will open every drawer in your bedroom dresser looking for forbidden items. Don’t expect any privacy. Every bedroom has a pair of half lockers in the closet for locking up your valuables. Disney even recommends that you bring a lock to the program. But the lockers are smaller than the ones you might have had in high school and are too shallow and too narrow to fit a computer notebook or other electronics. We don’t know anyone who used their locker to store valuables. But we suspect that if you think you might be able to keep your marijuana stash or bong in there during the inspection, you’ll be asked to open the lock. Locked lockers are probably very suspicious to the inspectors.
In this excerpt, Caroline Collins talks about her (creepy) Disney stalker.
A creepy guy used to come into Team Mickey every day to “check who’s there” and chitchat with the Cast Members. He was probably around Elly’s age (25). Elly had to talk to him because we have to be friendly and welcoming to guests. But here is how their first conversation went. Elly: “Hello, how are you, are you having a nice day?” He starts rambling on about walking around the DTD stores, and then says to Elly: “I’m looking for a wife to bring back with me to Puerto Rico, preferably one whose name is Elly.” Yikes. Elly says to him, “Hahaha, no thank you, I’m engaged.” It was so awkward that she quickly walked away. But he continued to come back into the store up to three times every night that Elly was working, and just stood by the counter waiting until she was done with her transactions with other guests, staring at her. Creepy.
A few days later, one of Elly’s coworkers came up to her and said, “You know that creepy guy who’s been bothering you? Well, I talked to the manager about him.” Elly said, “Oh, thanks, that’s great. He is so creepy.”
The coworker told Elly to call the manager over whenever she saw the creepy guy in the store, and literally right when she was saying that to Elly, the guy walked up to her. Luckily, the manager was nearby, and Elly’s coworker ran over to him and said, “Hey, guess what, I found Tinker Bell.” The manager took the cue: “Oh, that’s awesome, is she sprinkling fairy dust everywhere?” And the CP said, “Yeah, she is, right over here,” and led him back to the creepy guy. The manager talked quietly to him and he disappeared so fast, he literally ran out of the store.
Elly has not seen him back in the store since that incident. But she thought it was cool how they handled it, using Disney code words so as not to alert or upset the guests.