While others will have brand loyalty as well, I like Lenovo for quality and durability. You might go with a T-61 series and a downgrade to XP (Vista is default) and include MS Office standard edition. Lenovo doesn't include a lot of junkware applications as do some other manufacturers. It won't be a gaming laptop but you might not want to encourage that with a new college student anyway. I'll guess this to cost in the $1300 range.
I promised a gift of a laptop to my grandson who has spent his life on an XP-driven PC and is soon going off to college. I need help in deciding what laptop to get for him at the most optimum cost (not necessarily the cheapest but not an expensive one either) and which will contain the software and features he can best use at college.