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There’s a lot of interest in the Disney College Program lately. Many people dream of getting jobs at Walt Disney World, and what better time than your college years, when you’re young and up for an adventure? I talked with Mouze Kateerz fan Carrie Grooms of Camillus, NY, about her experience as a Disney College Program participant. Among other things, she told me what she considers to be the greatest College Program job there is. After she gives her reasons, and by the way, I think she’s on to something, we’ll see if you agree!
Carrie, thanks so much for giving Mouze fans some College Program info. from a real participant. To start off, where did you work during your time with the Disney Company?
I graduated the College Program in ’92 in Magic Kingdom Custodial. I moved on to Parking and drove trams, which actually scared me to death! I worked the Toll Plaza, Lost and Found, Kennel, the gas station when it wasn’t National’s, and I became a receptionist at the Ticket and Transportation Center. I also picked up extra shifts or drove trams when we were shorthanded. I saw firsthand the stress that the Vacation Planners were under to meet goals, but I also saw the thrill of selling the ticket to a child who is there for the first time when the gates open. Things have surely changed in twenty years, but the experiences are still life changing. No other theme park compares to Walt Disney World and the people you get to work with.
What are some of the coolest things you did while in the College Program?
Working Custodial, I saw the inside of the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain with the lights on.
I saw Cinderella Castle apartment (It’s teeny!), and worked all sorts of cool events like Epcot’s Night of Joy, Grad. Nights, and New Year’s Eve, all while participating with the College Program.
What did you think of the classes Disney offered?
The classes we took at Disney U,were fun, but they also offered a lot of good information on how to be a great employee, both at Disney and if you went on to other places. I still have my binder. Enjoy the opportunities but take in what you’re being told at your Seminars. The information will stay with you for a lifetime, and it can be fun if you look at it as an experience and not just another job.
What did you think about the wages and the hours you were offered?
Well, you didn’t make a lot of money, because they did charge a very high amount for the rent. College Program participants usually ended up with the late shifts, but we still had plenty of time to play. There were often many Cast Members who wanted to give up shifts to CP’s if you wanted or needed the hours. My managers were more like friends than bosses. They took CP’s under their wing, and they were there for us to talk to if we were down about anything.
Did you get in the very first time you applied?
I was a sophomore at a community college the first time I applied, and I wasn’t accepted that time. The next year I applied, I said I was willing to do ANYTHING. I listed custodial as one of the jobs I wanted, and this time, I got accepted. I’ve always been glad I went back and gave it another try.
Tell us about College Program dorm life.
The parties there were out of control sometimes, but that just depended on your roommates and your neighbors. Your roommates – well – I had one who was underage and couldn’t hold her liquor. You have to be tolerant. You don’t get to pick your own roommates, so try to make the best out of your differences. Realistically, you may only be together for a few minutes each day, so you may need to try to ignore the mess. It doesn’t last forever! If you buy food and you don’t want to share or feed your roommates, you can keep a lock box in your room. You won’t make enough to support your roommates and the friends they bring along! Out of the six people in the dorms, someone will probably be a friend you can hang out with.
What were some of your favorite questions you answered on the job?
That’s a funny list! Here’s my answers, and you’ll know the questions.
- The 3:00 parade starts at 3 pm.
- No, the fireworks do not go off INSIDE the castle.
- The bathroom? It’s right behind you.
- Please don’t stand on the alligator; he’s not one of our animatronics. (This one is a statement, but seriously, that happened when we were taking care of the golf tournament at Shades of Green when it was called the Disney Inn.)
- Yes, I’d love to take your picture. How does your camera work?
What is your overall feeling about the whole experience, both the College program and working for Disney?
All in all, it was fun and a great experience. We’re going back to Disney on vacation in August. My mother-in-law still works there. I really hope to go back and retire there myself. I don’t even care about being paid. I would gladly be a Disney Volunteer Greeter.
So in your opinion, what is the best job for a College Program participant?
I don’t even have to think about this one, but the answer will surprise people.
Custodial, by far, was the best job ever, and I’ve done several including Merchandise, Parking, Reception, and Ticket and Transportation. I saw enough Vacation Planning to get the impression that was tough and stressful. Custodial gave you the freedom to experience all the lands, and you weren’t in one place all day saying, over and over, “How many? Watch your step.”
In Custodial, I had more interaction with the guests. I would take their pictures, and get them a new popcorn when they spilled theirs. I got to watch the parades as I waited to sweep up after. We didn’t have to clean bathrooms when I was on the program. Now that may have changed, but even that wasn’t so bad, because you were usually in and out within 15 minutes.
So you’re saying to gave a good shot at being accepted into the program, apply for a job that most people wouldn’t immediately jump at. The problem is, when people hear “Custodial,” they think “trash,” which we all know conjures up yucky images. What’s up with that?!
As far as trash runs, you usually had one run maybe three out of five days, but even that wasn’t too bad. Park guests would ask for ice cream, because they thought we were the ice cream wagon.
Trash runs aside, just having the freedom to be scheduled in Tomorrowland today, then Liberty Square, and Adventureland the rest of the week was well worth it. Any guest could ask you directions to any ride, and you knew the most direct way to get there. You know what shops sold what. You didn’t have to work in the hot greasy kitchens. You don’t have to deal with a huge line of impatient vacationers waiting to buy their gifts and rush out to get their space at the parade. And you don’t have an eight-hour shift for one ride AND memorize the spiel that goes with it. There’s no spiel for Custodial!
Any advice for a College Program applicant or participant?
- If you don’t get in the first time, apply again. As I said, I didn’t get in the first time, but I went back and gave it another try. I’m really glad I did, because I got in on the second attempt.
- Be on time!! A number of CP’s are sent home due to tardiness everyday. One minute or one hour late, and it’s really all the same.
- Late shifts: just accept that fact that you’ll be up late, because you’re going to get them. You’ll get scheduled for all time shifts, but you will get a lot of the late shifts. You’ll still get to enjoy all the Disney parks on your days off. You’re there to work AND have fun, but hey, it’s not all vacation.
- Take advantage of ALL special offerings, field trips, and back stage events. Not everyone gets this opportunity so treasure it. A lot of times, you’ll receive an exclusive pin for attending these events. I still have all mine and show them to the kids who think it’s cool.
- If you don’t drive, make friends with someone who has a car and can take you to the beach, NASA, and the grocery store. They do offer transportation, but if you buy too much, it may be a long walk to your apartment, and taxis are expensive.
I’m going to tell my kids to write down Custodial on their Disney College Program applications. I can see myself sweeping up popcorn in my golden years.
Working for Disney is a DREAM JOB no matter where you’re placed; live and love the DREAM.
Thanks so much, Carrie, for talking with me about your experiences.
So we’ve given you some valuable tips for applying for and hopefully participating with the Disney College Program. Lots of people dream of having the great jobs like frosting cupcakes and dipping apples in chocolate, but the reality is, those Cast Members probably didn’t start off working those coveted spots. If you want a foot in the College Program door, or even a Cast Member position that offers flexibility, Disney Custodial may be the route for you.
You can read our College Program Application and Benefits overview here by clicking the link.
Do you agree Custodial may be the best job for a Disney College Program participant? Give us some comments and let us know what you think.
If you have participated in the Disney College Program recently, or were a Cast Member in another “Greatest Disney Job” and you would like to be interviewed, contact Mouze Kateerz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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See ya soon!