Well, the only reason I wouldn't go with a mac is if you want to game... other than that you will be surprised at how easy OS X is to pick up, and how user friendly it is.
for college purposes, I would definitely go with a Macbook pro if you have the money.
Now, if you want to go with a different laptop, I would go with either IBM thinkpads (I love thinkpads)
or .... well, lol, Thinkpads are the best in my opinion. And you can still get them with XP , I don't like vista either.
In the end, I think you would be the happiest with a Macbook, they are amazing, they run with a UNIX based OS, and well, doesn't that say it all ?
And I despise dell as well
and you will not be disappointed with a Mac