Student Life

Learn how to video chat with your student

By Evanne Montoya

Do you remember heading out to the landline in the dorm hallway in college to call your parents? Your student will never have to (and boy is that good news for you!). There are so many convenient ways for you to keep in touch with your student.

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High School Parent | College Parent

Although I share my generation’s reluctance to use a phone for its original purpose — calls — talking on the phone was still my preferred method of communication with my mom during college. I have fond memories of strolling along the pine-shaded “Hello Walk” on my campus, catching my mom up on my life in a (admittedly overdue) phone call.

But if you’re really missing your son or daughter, nothing beats being able to see their face. Go ahead, check to see if your son has been eating enough, or your daughter has already dyed her hair bright blue. Video calls are not difficult to set up — even if your student doesn’t have a younger sibling at home to take over her role as Resident Tech Support Guru.

Here are three video chat services that are relatively easy to use. Note: Video calls can use up a lot of data. If you are calling from a mobile device, it is a good idea to make sure you’re using Wi-Fi, not data, when making your call.



  • Compatible with most computers and devices
  • Easy interface (once you’ve installed Skype on your computer or device)
  • FREE!
  • Free group video chats are now available, which is great if you have more than one in college and want to initiate a mini-reunion.


  • Longer setup process

Learn how to set up and use Skype.




  • Super quick set up!
  • Easy to use
  • Free!
  • Pre-installed on Apple phones, tablets, desktops, laptops, etc.


  • Only works on Apple devices, so you and your student BOTH need to have an Apple of some sort!

Learn to set up and use FaceTime.


Google Video Hangouts


  • Compatible with most computers and devices
  • FREE!
  • Free group video chats are available, so you can have up to 10 people in a call.
  • Use with your existing Gmail account, or set up a free Gmail account to begin.


  • Some parents find it more difficult to use at first.

Coming soon: Learn to set up and use Google Video Hangouts

Are you ready to see your student’s face? Text your student to set up a time to call and choose a video service. Then use the tutorials below. You can complete the set up step at any time, and it’s a good idea to do it before the call time. Still having problems? Go to the UniversityParent community forum and reply to the Video Call Topic with your question.

Skype Tutorial

Set up Skype:

1. Choose a device or computer, preferably one with a built-in video camera. Most devices and even newer laptops will have one already, but you’d like to use a computer that doesn’t have a built in camera it’s easy to remedy.

To use video calling on a device without a built-in camera, you need to purchase a web camera. You don’t need anything fancy; I’ve found web cameras less than $20 that have everything you need. I would suggest finding one with a USB connection. Some also come with a built-in microphone, which is nice if your computer also lacks one of those. Before you download Skype, plug your webcam into your computer and follow any set-up instructions.

2. On that device, go to the Skype download page.

3. Find your device, and download the Skype application or app suggested for that device. Skype gives very clear directions for downloading on their download page for each device.

4. When Skype is installed, you’ll see options to “Sign in” or “Create an Account”. If this is your first time using Skype, you’ll need to create an account. IF you have an account, skip to 6.

5. Once you click “Create an Account”, you’ll be sent to the Skype website’s create an account page. When you’ve made your account, you can use your new username and password to sign in.

6. Sign in to Skype using your username and password.

7. Skype will help you choose a camera and microphone to use. You’ll be able to check that they are working before you finish this setup. If you have a separate webcam and it does not show up right away, try unplugging it and then plugging it back in while you are still on the setup screen.

Use Skype:

1. Once you’re signed in, you’ll want to add your student. The easy way would be to ask your student to add you, and give them your exact username. That way, you can simply click on the notification that you have a contact request, and accept your student’s request. The other way to add your student is to search for them. Click “Contacts,” then go to “Add Contact.” You’ll be given a search bar. Type in your student’s username, or the email they used to set up their account. When you find your student, click the green circle with a person and a plus sign in it. You’ll get a box where you can type a message to accompany your request. Then press send.

2. Once you or your student accepts the other’s contact request, you will be able to contact your student. Your student will appear in your contacts, which you can reach by clicking “Contacts” on the left. When the message under their name says “Online,” your student is signed in to Skype.

3. Calling your student is easy! If you’d like to check whether it’s a good time for your student, you can double click their photo. A text chat window will appear. The text chat is very similar to Facebook. From the chat page you may click the little video camera icon to start a video call, or your student can call you (simply accept the call, but make sure to accept video not just voice if you would like for them to be able to see you!).

4. From the contact page you can also call your student directly (if, for example, you had a call time scheduled). Simply hover your cursor over their photo, and then click the green “video call” button.

FaceTime Tutorial

Set up FaceTime:

1. Find and click on FaceTime.

On a laptop or desktop computer, FaceTime will appear under “Applications” in your finder. Having trouble? You can search your computer for almost anything by clicking the magnifying glass in the top right corner and typing in what you need.

On a mobile device, FaceTime is under settings.

2. Once you find FaceTime, you’ll need to use your Apple ID to activate it. Simply type in your ID and password. You will then be able to add an email that you can be reached at (the email you use with your Apple account should show up already as an option). If you’re using a phone, your phone number should appear as well.

3. You’re signed in!

Use Facetime:

The easy way is to get on your device, and have your student call you. Simply click the green “Accept” button to answer the call! If you need to call your student:

From a phone: Find out if your student is using a cell phone or a different device to FaceTime.

To a phone:

If your student is using a phone as well, find your student in your contact list on your phone. On their contact page, there should be a button that says “FaceTime”. If you click on it and there is more than one option, choose the phone number of their apple device.

To another device:

If your student is using another device, find out what email they are using. If you add that email to your student’s contact (click “Edit” in the righthand corner, then type in your student’s email in one of the email slots), when you open the contact and click FaceTime, that will be one of the options. Simply click your student’s contact on your phone, then press FaceTime, and finally click the email they are using.

From a computer:

1. Open the FaceTime application.

2. You will have a spot to type in your student’s phone number or email.

3. Their email or number will appear below the text box.

4. Double click it below the text box to enter a call.

5. Once you’ve called your student once, their phone number or email should appear in your recent calls. You can then simply double click their name, or single click the video camera icon to call them.


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