If your high school graduate is about to head off to college, it is important to properly equip them with a PC (oops I meant a Mac) that is easy to use and that will work reliably and not require any assistance. We made the shift for our kids back in 2006 and the long term road test indicates that occasionally running disk utility is the only maintenance needed on these machines.
The laptop of choice for a lot of students is shifting to the Apple MacBook and the reasons are now self-explanatory (they easy to use and just work, all the time). I'm going to share some brief thoughts on which MacBook to choose and the reasons why.
Platform - 13 inch vs 15 inch MacBook Pro
This is a personal preference, but a bigger screen often means more productivity. The only reason not to buy one from the University Store (UCLA offers both) is because you DO want to order online and get the 500 GB 7200 RPM hard disk. It is much faster than the standard drive (5400 RPM) and that also means more productivity for your student. Check out this link from MacRumors.com. Having had a glossy 13" MacBook for a while, I might now opt for the Anti-Glare Option.
Don't forget Apple Care. Don't skip this option, as it provides three years of support and repair service for your Mac.
Microsoft Office 2008 is the office suite of choice. Note that a key feature in MS Word is the Note taking feature and it allows for audio recordings of the professor's lecture.
Online File, Content Access and Backup
Mobile Me from Apple is one option, so is Google Docs. Some friends are using Mobile Me more often and for a student, it also backs up contacts. Before you sign-up though, check out what the University is offering. Also, send along some food sized USB memory sticks for file sharing etc.
An extra power cord can be a life saver, as sometimes a power cord can be left in the library and you need power for an all nighter... Some dorm rooms won't fit an extra display but that is your choice.
Transporting and Protecting your laptop
A number of providers, including Speck provide skins and backpacks/bags to protect and transport your Mac...Solar backpacks, while not for everyone, do work.
The printer to pick will be a separate post, as picking the right printer is easier said than done. So, have fun picking your Mac and start using it now, so you get used to it before heading to school.