Completely agree on the 32-bit / 64-bit thing.
Unless you are an engineering student, and you know that your school/favorite apps are going to be released in 64-bit form really soon and you need a lot of number crunching power.... then and only perhaps then does the max extra 20-25% in calculation power really mean anything.
Also, do understand that almost all 32-bit apps benchmark slower on 64-bit Windows than on 32-bit windows (this has been shown by so many benchmarks everywhere, it should be practically tattooed onto 64-bit heavy advocates foreheads.
I'm not saying 64-bit is a dodo or that you don't absolutely need it, but most people won't, at least for another 2-4 years. And 3 years in Laptop-la-la-land is a really long time, especially for a laptop that travels a lot (i.e. college student).
It's bound to break a few times and you're bound to lose your data in three years. Dual-processors and what not will be released before 64-bit apps are so common that you can really take advantage of them.
So, ask really hard: what it is that you need:
- silence (if you want to concentrate and not disturb others in a library for example)
- really long battery life time (8 hours if you really can't get to a plug near you)
- sturdiness (you are going to be transporting it a lot?)
- good screen (how much will you stare at this thing? think of your eyes)
- good keyboard (are you a touch typist? do you have to write a lot, even on the go?)
- cpu power (will you do heavy calculations, how about heaviest gaming?)
- gpu power (do you do 3d work or does heavy gaming override battery life, weight, etc?)
- any other things you can come to think of
Personally I've noticed that many of us make the same mistake when buying a new (especially first) laptop: buying by specs and buying for power.
Many times the so called "secondary" factors (weight, battery lifetime, screen/keyboard quality, quality of construction, etc) turn out to be as important or even most important.
If you really are going to live long with that laptop, then shop around, go to stores to see actualy physical units, type on them, look at the screens and try to find real world battery run time tests (manufacturer propaganda is almost always way too optimistic).
that's my two cents worth.
Best of luck with your purchase!