my opinion is that a cheap laptop will cost about the same, including OS, and will be a much more versatile tool for a student. its not the case that should scare you as much as the crap power supply that it comes with.
Sorry I dont need the computer as mush as I want to build one. I just dont want to spend a ton on one in case I make a big mistake and kill it.
That's how I built my first PC a few years ago. I fell in love with the Antec 300, found a cheap AMD Phenom II X3 + board combo, got some RAM and a cheap (still good - Antec) PSU/hard drive and went from there. First build was maybe $500 at most (only because DDR2 was still $100 for 4GB in some places). It's not as hard as you expect, but until you actually put it together you have no idea.
Another good way to get parts is to get them off of forums such as the Tom's Classifieds, Anandtech, etc. Usually you can score an older CPU/mobo for pretty cheap.
I am in school now and taking a computer hardware class. My teacher will give me some extra credit if a build one.
Wish I could've gotten extra credit in thermo-hydraulics when I watercooled my PC, you lucky duck
Boiler put together a good low-end build... BUT...
one of the most important parts is the PSU. Antec makes a lot of good ones and there is nothing wrong with 350W, however, checking the specs it only has 1 SATA connector and you'd need adapters for more drives like a DVD burner which was overlooked.
OK it'll up the ante a bit - about $45 but you should be good to go for years to come and you'll be glad you did.
It's really easy to do these days. Just don't grab the cat and parts at the same time - static electricity is the enemy. Should take about 1/2 an hour. Watch the NE tutorial video. READ the guides on here. Do your research. You'll be fine. Be very careful - building computers can be highly addictive once you start. We're all hopeless junkies here.