bought 3 well working laptops, dell latitude d600 and d505, i'd reccommend the d600 from an excellent seller on amazon John Amhrein http://www.amazon.com/shops/qualitylaptops He fixes and resells used laptops for under 200 dollars. They work great, and he was good with custmoer service. I rarely talk up sellers like that, because every situation is different, but this was a great deal.
A Google Chromebook. These are portable, lightweight and are really slim. If I were you I would get one of them. They are made by samsung and acer. Personally, I would get the Samsung one though. The can range from 400 to 600 dollars. Great for scholars and high school students.
I just bought an acer 2 months ago, and i love it.If you want to have something that you can really rely on for school I would go new! I paid a little less that 400 for mine and they tell me the government used this brand at one time. Not positive if thats true,but whatever. Check out Walmart, they will price match if you find it cheaper elsewhere.Good Luck!
If you are NOT going to play any graphic intensive games(Diablo, Dungeons and dragons online, World of Warcraft) You can get away with a 2-300 dollar netbook from Best Buy. For taking notes, surfing the web, Facebook, YouTube, etc... Netbooks are the perfect tool for college. They are lightweight, fit in the backpack and take the place of notepads, pens and highlighters and free up space so you dont have so much to carry. EDIT: Im a student.
Older Lenovo, HP (brand/price) - motherboard/architecture as follows (2010) "ASUS and Toshiba were the most reliable manufacturers, with fewer than 16% having a hardware malfunction over 3 years." OS (free) Linux Mint (I'm using Maya)