Disney College Program: a magical experience for students

Jamie Lloyd, Staff

The Disney College Program is a paid internship program unlike any other. College undergraduates can experience the magic of Disney while working in various roles and environments at Disney parks, earning college credit at their university from either online classes or various classes offered on-site.

“It’s very exciting, it’s a very unique program, the students are always excited about it. That’s what makes it so amazing,” said University of New Orleans Director of Career Services Celyn Boykin, who has been affiliated with the Disney College Program since her beginning at the university.

“We generally have a pretty strong number of students. On average, we get between 15-18 students at any given time attending the college program … most universities don’t have as many students as we generally will have in the program.”

UNO first became affiliated with the Disney program in the early 2000s; since then, 271 students have participated in Disney internships.

Once accepted to the program, students can choose to intern at either Disneyland in Anaheim, California or Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. “Most will choose Orlando,” said Boykin.

Prospective students must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0, as well as a program GPA of 2.0, in addition to a minimum of 12 credit hours before the start of the program. Incoming freshman are still encouraged to apply.

“From engineering, to computer science, to liberal arts, to interdisciplinary studies, to education, any major is eligible to apply… Many applicants are Disney buffs who have grown up with the franchise.”

For recent UNO graduate and Disney buff, Lane Balch, it all started at a young age. “My dream has always been to be an Imagineer,” Balch said. The term refers to the job title given to Disney professionals who work closely with creating new and exciting innovations in the franchise. Through word-of-mouth, Balch discovered the Disney College Program, realizing that it was the first step toward achieving his childhood dream.

“I’ve kind of always known that Disney and I would be a pretty good fit,” Balch said. “When I started my first program [in September of 2014], I was terrified. Then, I realized how well my personality fit in.”

Not even one month into his first program, Balch decided to extend his stay. Since then, he has stemmed countless friendships from people all over the world, beat personal goals, and added valuable experience to his résumé. It isn’t hard for him to find the real reason why he keeps coming back to Disney. “It’s an amazing experience to get off work and see fireworks.”

While fireworks might please Balch aesthetically, nothing gives him more pleasure than knowing he had a part in a child’s Disney experience. “When you go on stage and you walk up to a child and kneel down for the first time and you talk to them and they smile because of something you said, it’s an entirely different feeling,” Balch explained, “because all of a sudden, you realize that you’re part of this magic.”

For Balch, the decision is a no-brainer. “I tell everyone I come across that I recommend the program. It’s a program where you have to be all in. If you love it, there’s really no sacrifice.”

“I firmly believe that if you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life. I haven’t worked a day in my life since I’ve been here.”
Disney also offers professional and management internship programs for graduate students. For more information about application deadlines and academic requirements, students can visit disneycollegeprogram.com, or contact UNO Career Services Director Celyn Boykin.