I'd get an Apple, if you want to spend the money for it. I think the operating system is better than Windows. Windows has
so much junk with it. I have both but like the Apple better than the Windows laptop.
My last few laptops have been HP business class laptops off of business leases. They are refurbished and they're built for heavy use--and you can buy a docking station for them so they will act like a desktop at home but you can carry them with you when you travel. The best part--they are usually at about 50-75% off list price. My last computer was about $300!
I’m close to finishing up my Master’s degree, using an inexpensive HP laptop. I spent less than $400 on it a year and a half ago, including wireless mouse, carrying case and a thumb drive.
All it needs to be able to do is access the Internet and run the full suite of Microsoft office products. Personal computing tech has reached the point that every product out there does those basic functions very well. If all she needs it for is schoolwork, there’s no need to spend more than $500.
I have two computers with hybrid drives, one over a year old and the other probably 3+ years old, and haven't had any trouble with either. Not a bad compromise between SSD and more storage, at lower cost.
You can get a USB external CD/DVD burner for as little as $30 or so, I wouldn't be too concerned about whether it has a built in optical drive myself.
Yeah, they're cheap. And given that the laptop is usually thinner without it being built in, there probably isn't much difference overall in weight/size taken up. And you have the option of taking it or leaving it, if you want to minimize size and weight, and if it breaks or gets lost it's easy enough to get a replacement. I keep one in my laptop bag all the time.
@TwoForFlinching check this thread the 3rd or 4th post in I talk about the machine I built in Jan 2012 that I am on right now was built with 128gb SDD. Its 7.5 years old and now that drive has 3240 Power on hours still with 93% life. SSDs are the only way to go.