Derp, a lot of people say apple because they really are very good computers, but as a college student i have found it more reliable and easier to use a dell computer of your choice. I know a few college students who have macs and often complain that some things aren't compatible and the reason why is because some things the college needs to put on your laptop may be made for dell or hp laptops only, so if you want something that you can use with ease, get a dell. If you want something that is fast and popular, get a mac, but i recommend a dell even though many people say to get a mac, hope this helps.
When you select laptop, look for the following features: 1. get a laptop with windows 7 or 8 2. it should have DDR 4Gb ram so that your laptop is technology proof for the next 3 yrs at least 3. it should have 500GB space or more as you might like to store data, movies, games and run some essential programs which might be required either academically or basics like MS Office, etc 4. if you are into gaming and HD movies, make sure it has a good graphics card( depending on the built or vendor) Besides these essentials which are a must, ask the vendor which softwares is he giving you. Ensure they are authentic, plus warranty plays a very important role, 1 yr or preferably higher warranty should be there
You can't go wrong with an HP. I have been using them for the past 3-4 years in both laptops and desktops. They are affordable and offer very solid products. You can customize your own on their website and get only the additions you are interested in.
It's possible as with all computing products that you may run into some problems. However, their customer service is great and they will pay for shipping if you have to send in your computer for repairs within the first year.
Avoid Compaq, however, which HP now owns. They are like the low-end, "affordable" branch of HP, but the products are very unreliable and break often.
I saw a suggestion for Dells too. I hear they've been getting slightly better in recent years, particularly the XPS, but that's probably not in your price range. My experience with Dell laptops is that they have all been lemons. We've had about 3 in my family.
So my recommendation is definitely HP. Happy shopping!