For ages, I have avoided Google as much as I can. It's not that it's not a great search engine, but I prefer to try out some of the other search engines. I have been using Clusty for some time. The idea behind Clusty is that when a user enters a search term, it will come back with fewer hits than Google but it also suggests other search terms and clusters results for those terms along the side of the page. Many is the time I have typed in one term only to find what I really meant in the cluster of alternative terms Clusty provides.
Here's another search engine that I like. Triplify gives you the top hits from Google, Yahoo and MSN and then ranks them by applicability. I'm not totally crazy about the black and neon design, but I still think this would be a very good engine for students to use.