I bought a dell xps gen 2 laptop two years ago, and I must confess that I absolutely love it! In terms of tech it might seem dated by now, 2ghz pentium M, 1 gig ram, and 6800go graphics card. But that doesn't mean i have had any problems playing the latest games, even if i have to nudge the graphics down a little now to compensate.
The bottomline is though, the xps is tuned and marketed for gaming. i do use it at college, but if your budget isn't $3,000, you would probably be better off with another brand. As other people have already said, the rest of the Dell lineup isn't all that great. I have had experience with other normal inspiron line laptop, and they are completely unimpressive.
In the end it will come down to your budget, and which company/product you find to be most aesthetically pleasing (i admit, i was totally mesmerized by the colorful lights of the xps
). If its just for school, all out performance will matter much less than other factors such as wieght, battery life, and screen size.
just go with what your gut says, and make sure you read reviews to make sure the market views the product (on average) favorably.
Good luck ^_^