You summarized that quite well. The only Dell laptops with similar or greater build quality than a Macbook would be the business class of notebooks that Dell sells. Most people don't buy those though.
Actually, the Latitudes are Dell's main business-line class of notebooks. Only model higher are Precisions...which also have their own issues according to that friend who has one for work purposes.
IME...the build quality on the macbooks are much better than on the Latitudes.
Not to mention the Inspirons and Vostros which are more consumer-grade/small business respectively.
So, the Macs are built the best, out of all the brands? Is it worth getting a Mac if I'll get a new one in a few years
Why are you expecting to get a new notebook in a few years...especially given your stated majors are Anthropology and Spanish?
Neither of those fields are going to require so much computer processing power to necessitate replacing one in 4 or less years. In fact, I know several Anthro grad students doing PhDs who are still comfortably using notebooks using Pentium II/III CPUs....stuff from the late '90s/early '00s.
Anything you get now...or even that old Dell desktop would be way more powerful than that.
Out of curiosity, what model of Dell desktop were you/your family running?