The Disney College Program – A Few Additional Tips For Parents

I’ve just returned from a fabulous long weekend in Walt Disney World.  My husband and I brought our daughter to Orlando to begin her Disney College Program session.  As you know from my previous posts, I think the Disney College Program is a great opportunity for college students.  I’ve seen how the time my son spent in the program has helped shape his character and guide him further on his career path.  The Disney College Program has opened doors for my son and has exposed him to people from all over the world.  People who have remained his friends and people who have become business contacts.

I recently wrote a post entitled, The Disney College Program, Packing and Arrival Tips, but having just returned from bringing our daughter, I wanted to add a few additional points to help parents in planning for this new adventure.

We arrived in Walt Disney World a few days before my daughter’s actual check-in date.  We stayed for two nights at the Disney All Star Movies Resort and then switched hotels to the Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.

On check-in day, we arrived at Vista Way apartment complex at around 8 AM.  There were already a large number of College Program participants in line.  Even though the registration actually opens at 9AM, people arrive early.   There is a very nice waiting area with light refreshments for the parents in another part of the apartment complex.  In this area, you can sign up to be on the email list for the parents of CPs, ask questions about the program and talk to representatives of the Disney Vacation Club.

Disney College Program Parents Waiting Area Arrival Day

You can expect a long wait.  We waited about 4 hours for our daughter to finish.  You can either stay at the apartments and wait (which we did when we brought our son) or go off do something else.  My husband and I chose to go back to our hotel and walked over to EPCOT for lunch.

Another option would be to visit Downtown Disney.  There are shops and restaurants to visit and Downtown Disney is very close to Vista Way, so you won’t have to go far.


At check-in, the College Program participants turn over all the paperwork Disney requires along with their forms of identification.  They can request which apartment complex they want to live in, either Patterson, Chatham or Vista Way.

Then, the participants take a bus over to the Casting Building.   Disney will run background checks, issue their company ID’s and most importantly, the participants will find out where they will be working.

The participants are then brought back toVista Way and can move into their apartment. Parents are welcome to help with the move-in.

Either later that day or the next, the participants will be required to attend a Housing meeting which will outline the rules and regulations of living the the Disney housing and will give them information about the apartments. Remind your new CP that Disney requires that rules must be followed.  My son knew several individuals that were terminated for breaking housing, alcohol and work rules.

It’ll be a busy next few days for these new CP’ers.  They’ll be meeting new friends, exploring the Disney Parks and learning about their new jobs.  It’s such an exciting new adventure they’ll embark on and one that will surely provide them with wonderful memories.

54 thoughts on “The Disney College Program – A Few Additional Tips For Parents”

  1. Hi Joanie,

    My daughter is scheduled to check in on Monday 5 Feb 2018. I read that you came ahead of that date. Both my wife and I have heavy Church Commitments with Confirmation and Religious Education that entire weekend & Monday that cannot be rescheduled. [Our Military Bishop will not reschedule.] I was wondering if there is an office I can contact to see if its possible to move her in with the group processing in on 25 Jan 2018. Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Steve Ruiz
    Millbrook, AL

    1. Hi Steve,
      It’s been several years since my son and daughter participated in the Disney College Program but I do remember there being a phone number and/or email address for someone to speak with at Disney included in the Acceptance packet. Hope this helps.


  2. Thank you for this very helpful blog! My son just got accepted to the Disney College program for Fall 2017. Are you aware if Disney allows deferral to another semester? Is so how do they go about asking ahead of time?

    1. Hi Aida,

      My son and daughter have been out of the Disney College Program for a few years now so I’m not entirely sure how that works. I would advise you or your son to contact Disney directly to ask. Congratulations to your son on his acceptance, it’s a wonderful program and one that my son and daughter are happy to have participated in.


  3. Hi, my son will start in the Disney College Program in January 2016. We are driving down and then I plan on flying home. Will he be able to drive me to the airport the day after check-in? If so, what is the best time to schedule my flight so there will not be a conflict for him? …8:00 PM? …7:00 PM? Thanks!

    1. Hi Gail, It’s hard to know what your son’s schedule will be the day after check-in because it varies with each participant. If you’re traveling back home in the evening, he might be able to drive you to the airport but there are often apartment meetings/socials for new participants in the evenings. I would say the later in the evening your flight is, the easier it will be for you son to be available to take you to the airport.

    1. Anne, I honestly can’t remember and neither can the former participants I’ve spoken with. I do remember buying the longer twin sheets for both my son and daughter just in case.

  4. Hi I am driving my daughter to the internship in August and her check in date is August 10th. I also have a flight back home at 3pm the same day, will she be able to drive me to the airport?

    1. Hi Debbie, she probably won’t have time that day to drive you to the airport. After check-in, the kids take a bus over to casting where they fill out paperwork and get their assignments.

  5. So much information!!! I love it!! I am planning to apply for the Disney College Program. I couldn’t find these answers on their site.

    I know you need to be enrolled for the application/interview. Do you need to keep attending classes (online) while interning or do you put college on hold for 12 weeks? I’d like to put my campus on hold and join some Disney U. courses.

    Also, my college ends in June so do you have experience or recommendations on how to handle finals and the Fall Advantage program that I believe starts in May? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kyndall, When you are accepted into the Disney College Program, you are basically taking time off from attending school. You can do online courses if you want to but it isn’t necessary. There are many courses available from Disney and these may or may not be counted as courses your college will accept. You will need to speak with your college counsellor to be sure.

      My kids didn’t have a conflict with exams and the start of the program so I don’t have any advice to give you other than you may need to apply to a different program so you don’t miss your exams.

      Participants in the Disney College Program are responsible for their own transportation to Orlando or Anaheim and any stay in a hotel prior to moving into their apartments. Soon after beginning the Disney College Program, you can enter the Disney parks free.

  6. Joanie: Thank you so much for this information. I was looking for a parents view of the DCP check in. My whole family will be traveling from NYC with our daughter in a few weeks to move her in. We are getting very excited/anxious (We will miss her – she dorms at school but she is not that far away). I have so many questions and no where to turn to. You answered a lot of them. But here are the rest.
    Will my husband and I and our kids be able to help her move in – or is it limited?
    We plan on leaving the day after check in and was wondering if we will be able to get her completely moved in on check in day?
    Are they allowed TVs in their room or only in the living room?
    Thank you so much for your help.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Yes, you will be able to help move your daughter into her apartment and can probably get it all done in one day. Your daughter will also be able to have a TV in her room if she likes. Good luck with the move, I know your daughter must be very excited. It’ll be a fun experience for her.

  7. I just happened up on your blog. My daughter is moving in January 12. What is the best way for her to get cash while she is there? She has a checking here at home, but I know ATMs charge fees. Plus I don’t know where there is one she can use. This is all new to us. She can take some cash with her, but I don’t think she should keep too much there.

  8. Great blog. Can’t find this info anywhere else! My daughter is coming to Disney College at Disney World in April 2014 form the West Coast. Since she needs to check in Mon morning, she will need to fly in on Sunday. Do other 19 yo students stay in a hotel on their own overnight and then get to the check-in on their own? Particularly thinking about safety for a 19 yo girl! What percentage of parents come with their students? We want to come visit later when she is settled and is isn’t during spring break when everyone else is there! But certainly want her to feel safe and supported.

    1. Thanks, Bella! I’m not sure if hotels will even allow a 19 year old to check into a hotel. Even if she could, as a mom, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with letting my daughter do that. One option would be to travel to Orlando with her and both of you check into the hotel, then leave after she checks into the program. Another option would be for your daughter to look into the Disney College Program Facebook page for the time she got accepted to and join it (Spring Advantage or Spring 2015). She will be able to connect with lots of other kids who will be there at the same time as she will. There are often people travelling from the same state or close by and sometimes can arrange to travel down together.

  9. Hi Joanie,

    What a wonderful help your blog site is! My son just received his acceptance yesterday for the spring of 2015. I know you mentioned that you saw some kids checking in by themselves. Do you think its too much for them? We live in New york, and I am trying to decide if I should go down and help my son check-in?

    Thanks so much,


    1. Hi Annette,

      Congratulations on your son’s acceptance into the program! I don’t think the check-in process is difficult. When our son participated in the DCP the second time, he checked in by himself. In reality, the kids do everything on their own at check-in. The parents just sit around and wait. Personally, I think it’s helpful to travel down just to help with moving into the apartment and helping them get necessary items that may be hard to travel with such as towels, bedding and groceries. Your son might find it helpful but definitely not necessary for you to be there.

  10. Thankyou for a rich insight on Check In day! I leave for a year placement in July and can’t wait.
    One question..

    What happens with our luggage on check in day, it is kept somewhere safe till after Casting and it is safe to leave a laptop with that luggage? OR.. do we carry it around with us?

    I’ve watched many videos on Check In day and my luggage situation..I can’t never see any on the videos.

    DJ Cooper.

  11. Will my daughter need to change her NC drivers license and her car registration to Florida since she will have her car here?

    1. Ange, since your daughter is doing an “internship” at Walt Disney World, she won’t need to change her NC drivers license. If she chose to set up permanent residence in Florida, however, she would need to change it.

  12. My granddaughter is going into the Disney Program in June of this year. I know this is late but she is driving me crazy wanting to take her car. I am not sure if she should as I don’t want everyone to think she is transportation but also the most important question, would one be helpful. Also in reading all that you talk about has been a big help, wish I had done it sooner. I was going to leave and catch an early flight on Monday morning that she checks in but in reading your blog you talk about things that need to be done that day. What do you suggest, I so need to get all the arrangements done ASAP. Thank you

    1. Hi Linda,

      We found that a car is definitely not necessary. The College Program buses pick up the kids at or near their apartments to bring them to work, to bring them to Downtown Disney, to a Super Walmart and a couple of other places. For my son’s first College Program, he did not have his car. For his second time in the program, he took his car and found he kept it parked at his apartment for most of the time. He enjoyed having it if he wanted to get away and go to Universal Studios or drive with friends to the beach but it definitely wasn’t needed and he was happy not to have to pay for gas so he didn’t drive it as much. Both my kids had no trouble finding rides with other roommates or friends. It really is a personal decision, a car isn’t needed but nice to have if your granddaughter wants to have a bit more freedom to drive places other than where the buses go doesn’t want to have to rely on friends.

      Some kids come to check-in day without parents/grandparents. The only reason we stayed a day longer was to make sure our kids had everything they needed for their apartments. They could certainly have done this on their own. The kids check into their apartments with only the things they bring. Your grandaughter will probably need to pick up extra household items and food on that day. We noticed quite a few kids on their own and going off with their new roommates to the store to shop for what they need for their apartments together. I believe the buses also run to and from Walmart on this day too.

      Hope this helps.

  13. Hi

    My daughter got accepted and I am taking her down in May. Where is a good hotel to stay. Why did you change? Did you need to give your kids money for things to do? I am not sure what to do. I want to help, but not to go overboard. Suggestions?


    1. A couple of my readers said they stayed at Springhill Suites. Holiday Inn Sunspree and the Marriott Villiage are also close by. We stayed at the Disney AllStar Resort and switched over to the Yacht and Beach Club because my husband and I wanted to spend a couple extra days around the park and we really do love this hotel.

      The kids should have some money with them before they begin the program because they won’t be getting a paycheck until the second or third week. This post has lots more information about packing for the program and lots of arrival tips. Best of luck, Kathleen!

  14. Hi Joanie! Thanks so much for all the valuable info you’ve shared. My daughter will be participating in the program this Fall and is BEYOND excited! Did either of your children take any of the Disney classes (if so, which ones) and what was their experience with those? Or, did they attempt to take any online classes at their home college while participating in the program? My daughter really needs to take 6 credit hours if at all possible. She’s on academic scholarship and has the option of taking no classes (and forfeiting the scholarship for Fall semester) OR taking 6 hours and getting the full scholarship as usual. We hate the thoughts of her giving up the scholarship $. I think perhaps she should talk to her advisor about potentially getting credit for an independent study option, but I imagine they would want her to take at least one of the Disney education offerings in order to even consider that. She’s concerned that taking a Disney class will be too time consuming on her off days and has read mixed reviews about it. Any advice you can share about this is greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Pamela, My son took “Marketing You” at Walt Disney World and loved it. He’s used the information he learned in class to help him build his resume and basically “market himself” now that he’s out of college and in the business world. While doing the Disney College Program in California, he took a “Leadership Speaker Series” and “Corporate Analysis” and enjoyed both of those as well. He didn’t feel like they took up too much of his time at all. Most kids I’ve talked to feel the same way.

      My son also took an online college class while doing the College Program. Sometimes it was challenging because he often worked late at night. It became a simple issue of time management. He learned he needed to schedule the time in for his class.

      Some colleges offer credit for participating in the Disney College Program and I would advise her to speak with her academic advisor to see if her university would.

      Hope this information helps.

  15. Hi. I was wondering if your daughter thought the 7 months was too long. Also, was she able to come home or get any time off during her CP. We have a graduation this summer and wanted our daughter to come home for that. Also, were your kids able to save any money while they were there?

    1. Hi Kristen, My daughter felt 7 months was long but she enjoyed her time there and wants to do the program again. My son on the other hand, could have stayed longer and in fact returned to do the program the following year.

      My kids couldn’t take a lot of time off. When we visited, they were able to get off for a day and then switch off with another cast member so we could spend time together,but it may be hard for your daughter to take off several days.

      Our kids were able to come home with a little money. My son is a saver and he did manage to pinch pennies and come home with a little more than his sister did.

  16. This is just what I needed!! My son just received his acceptance notice today. I’m waiting to hear which kind of job he has (and whether it’s Fall Advantage or Regular–he told them he was open to either). They mostly questioned him about ride operations, lifeguard, arcades, and food service. I am so glad to hear that most of the kids have a parent with them at check in. I want to be there, but don’t want to embarrass him by being one of a few parents there! We will probably drive down with him in the car he can keep there, then fly home after a few days. I will probably be posting questions as we go through this process, but for now, I’m wondering when the resort discounts become available for families. I’m assuming we won’t be able to get a discount for the check in time, but we will plan to go back sometime before Christmas. Also, I read that you can often get the dining plan at a discount. Is that accurate?

    1. Maribeth, Congratulations on your son’s acceptance! Now the excitement begins!!

      I’m sure you’ll see lots of other parents bringing their kids to check-in so I wouldn’t be too worried.

      Unfortunately, the Disney resort discounts don’t kick in until your son is officially a “Cast Member” which is generally after he begins working. But, if you’re going back in December, you’ll most likely be able to take advantage of the resort discounts then. Discounts aren’t available for the Disney Dining Plan, but when your son eats with you, as long as he “pays”, he can use his cast member discount.

      If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

  17. Thank you for taking the time to share this info with other parents! I was wondering which apartments you would recommend. After watching a couple of youtube posts by past CPs, there seems to be an issue with bus transportation from some apartments. I was thinking of renting a car for the check-in day, is there enough parking to accommodate everyone that might be driving? Are there more kids that move in with their parents than not?
    Thanks for any info you could provide.

    1. Hi Sheila, My son stayed in Patterson and Chatham Apartments and my daughter stayed in Chatham. Both of these complexes are very nice and they are both very similar. Since neither of my kids stayed at Vista, I really can’t speak from any point of experience about them. The buses pick up CPs in front of all three apartment complexes.

      If you choose to rent a car, there is a parking lot for guests at the Vista apartments on check in day. I found most kids arrived with a parent, however some came alone. On my son’s second College Program internship, he arrived alone and didn’t have any problems. On check in day, the parents basically drop off the kids and can either wait in the parent waiting area or come back later. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

  18. We are going to Disney on a family trip and wanting to bring a gift for a friend in the college program. Any ideas for good gifts for a female college program participant? Also she is working at a counter service food location. Will it be ok to bring a gift bag of stuff for her there? Thanks for your help!

    1. Melissa, what a sweet idea! I’m thinking back to when my daughter was in the program and trying to think of what she would have liked. What immediately comes to mind are gift cards to local restaurants. There is a Panera Bread close to the College Program apartments that the kids can walk to. Gift cards to the Earl of Sandwich or the Candy Cauldron in Downtown Disney would also be nice. Other than gift cards, maybe a basket of items from home with mementos from places that remind her of family and friends back home. Most girls love pretty things, maybe a colorful scarf from a favorite store or something pretty for her apartment (since they can be pretty drab). Hope that helps and have a wonderful trip!

  19. Thanks for all the info! My son is arriving on Tuesday himself. He is driving and I was wondering where can he park his car when he checks in? Thanks!

    1. Susan, your son can park his car at Vista Apartments on check-in day. After he checks in and finds out which apartment building he will be living in, he can park it there. I’m glad this information has been helpful to you. Best of luck to your son!

  20. Thank you so much, Joanie! You really are an angel for helping out us “green” parents. I’m feeling more relaxed about the program already.

    I have gleaned a lot of information about what she will need from all the comments on your blog. As we get closer, however, I’m sure I’ll be writing you back 🙂

    The question I have today is about visitations. I figure the kids will be extremely busy during the program, but did you, or do you know of any parents who visited during the program? If so, do you know if my daughter would be allowed to stay in our hotel with us during our visit? We would stay on property, of course, to make it easier to get around. Any insights about visits would be awesome.

    Thanks again ~ Darlene

  21. Hi Joanie! Thanks for all the great information you have shared. My daughter will be arriving for her program on April 7th and leaving August 1st 2014. I know it’s a ways off but I’m already starting to panic. We live in Seattle which is about as far away as you can get from Florida in the continuous US. I’ve been debating whether to fly down with her for move in. She will be 21 by then and would rather me fly down after she is settled into the program so that we can have fun together. I’d like to try to visit her twice during her 4 month stay so that she doesn’t get homesick. Because it’s such an expensive trip, I’m thinking maybe she’s right about going herself initially. Are there many kids who check in by themselves? What do they do with their luggage while waiting in line? Do they have an opportunity to get something to eat at some point? If so, where?

    I have so many other questions,especially about what they need to bring/buy, but I don’t want to overwhelm you at this time. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Darlene,
      Yes, there are lots of kids who check-in by themselves and according to my daughter, there is a place at Vista where they can keep their luggage while checking in.

      While waiting or shortly after check-in, they are given a little bag of snacks (granola bar, water and maybe a little something else) to eat while waiting. I would suggest they bring something anyway to eat while in line. I don’t think they will have the opportunity to leave to get something to eat. They go from one thing to the next until they finally are able to move into their apartments so extra snacks are a good idea.

      Hope this helps and if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

  22. Hi, I recently just got accepted into the program for spring 2014.
    My mom is driving me down, and I was wondering if you could tell me how much you spent on a hotel? And did you get to use your daughters discount? Also did you get to go in the park for free with your daughter?

  23. Hi! I’m taking my daughter to the CP next week. We are flying down and got a room at the Springhill suites. We were told that this is in walking distance from the apartments and that we can we shuttled to any of the Disney sites. I wasn’t planning on renting a car but am wondering if I may need to?

    1. Michele, According to Google Maps, it looks like Springhill Suites is about a 20 minute walk to Vista Way. If it were me, I’d definitely rent a car. It might rain, then you won’t want to walk. Also, you’ll have your daughter’s suitcase(s) and other items she needs for her new apartment. How will you get those to her apartment? She won’t know which apartment she’ll be staying in until she checks in. The other two apartments, Chatham and Patterson are NOT in walking distance from the hotel. I don’t believe the hotel shuttle will take you to the Disney apartments because they aren’t Disney attractions.

  24. Okay, so here’s the skinny from our July 8th check-in….. I think because this was fewer people checking in it may have been a bit different. We were told it was going to be from 8AM to 10AM and not to arrive before 7AM. When we got there at 7:10, security said they did not know anything and we had to wait outside the community until someone came for us. The person showed up about 8:15 and the parents went to sit at some umbrella tables on a patio. (July heat, so remember to bring water as there was nothing available.)

    My daughter made friends with some of the girls and that was a huge step in lessening the anxiety level. She rooms with one and the other is in the apartment above them. They got their assigned park and area, but not exactly what they would be doing. Caro, will be in Fantasy Land, Magic Kingdom in attractions. She was very pleased and her friends seemed to be happy with their assignments.

    Some of the others were not as happy and that was hard, especially those who were there on their own without the support of family.

    She is in a two bedroom in Chatham and the apartment is great. I will say that the furnishings are a bit limited.
    Couch, chair, coffee table, 2 end tables, dining table with 4 chairs, built in desk with computer outlet. Twin beds in each bedroom, 2 night stands, one dresser, each person has a bulletin board and there is a large bulletin board in the dining room. Vertical blinds on all windows.
    There is a small locker for each person, about 10″ x 30″, so get a lock for that. I don’t think there would be any problems, but it gets your child started thinking about keeping things important/valuable secure.

    The kitchen has a dishwasher, small microwave, refrigerator with icemaker and stove. Dishes for eating off of, but no casseroles,mixing bowls, cookie sheets, spatulas, potholders etc. There was only a small skillet for cooking. Silverware was limited as well….4 knives, 4 spoons, but only 2 forks :). Lots of pantry space.

    We hit Target and Walmart for a hand mixer,utensils, silverware, plastic storage containers, a toaster, a few throw pillows for the sofa and some lamps. The only lights are ceiling lights, so for nightstands and one for an end table. We brought a TV and there is cable hook up in the living room. Need a cable. We also brought bathroom rugs (the baths are quite large)and an extra table for Caro to use as a desk in her room.

    We bought a router at Target (the guy there was very familiar with what the CPs needed.) The desk would be very crowded when all 4 girls want to be on their computers!

    Suggest bringing some paper towels and cleaning supplies so that you can clean a bit as the fridge was a bit dirty. We also brought a Swiffer so that they did not have to borrow the vacuum from the community all the time. Extension cords are also a good idea.

    It took about an hour and 15 minutes to check in with probably about 20 CPs coming in. Later in the day they spent time doing paperwork (another hour or so) and that place is right across from Downtown Disney if you are waiting for your child. After that we had plenty of time to shop for necessities and groceries. Super Target and Walmart are both close.

    That evening they went out a bit to Grocery Bingo etc. The next day was a housing meeting and mostly free for fun. Wednesday was totally free. Hopefully the girls are learning their way around and making more friends.

    I will say that driving in the area is a bit daunting for many. Traffic can be heavy and I think my daughter will limit her driving, particularly in the beginning until she knows the area better.

    Saying good bye was not easy, but knowing that the apartment was nice, the area safe and well run and the room mates a good fit helped immeasurably!

    All in all a good experience. Joanie, my thanks to all the wisdom we gleaned from your blog and I hope our experiences will also help others who read this.

    1. Kathleen,
      Thank you so much for sharing your Check-in experience. Your daughter got a great assignment! If you, or your daughter, have any questions I can relay to my College Program son and daughter, please let me know.

  25. Hmmm….. wonder how your kids felt about keeping things safe. Cameras, computers, IDs they ask for . I guess we are just a little worried as we know absolutely nothing about anyone our daughter may live with. We leave this weekend to take her down and are so excited for her. Your blog has been such a help in all this! Thanks!!!!

    1. I know that feeling. We all were a little concerned at first about keeping their items safe and having compatible roommates but there was never a problem. Their roommates were all nice kids in the same position and everyone was kept busy working so hard. Best of luck to your daughter!! If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

  26. Can you tell us if there will be any sort of closet or locker or safe that locks for valuables? Also, was there a desk in each room for the CPs?

    Thanks so much for all your insight and info!

  27. How long did you stay after the check in day? Trying to determine arrival/departure days for parent.

    1. Hi Sarah, my husband and I stayed one day after check-in. We wanted to make sure they had everything they needed before we left. Our kids were kept so busy after check-in, we wouldn’t have been able to spend much time with them anyway.

  28. I wanted to know what type of identification do you show? I’m a U.S. citizen so what do i bring? My passport and what else.?

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