The introduction of Google Apps (applications) has made life a little bit easier -- collaboration and the simplicity of the web-based software make it so you don't need to install a bunch of other junk on your PC -- No downloads, no software to buy
Google will also store all the files you create for you under your Google account, this way you don't have to worry about losing your flash drive or your hard drive failing. You will have 1GB of space to store all these files on their server, but that's enough for well over a thousand documents.
Google Apps can also be used through your phone, without downloading any secondary applications to use it.
Google has quite a few apps to explore, but here is a brief preview of which ones are useful to college students.
Google Docs is one of the more useful Google Applications...especially for college students who are dirt broke.
Google Docs has its own built-in word processor. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles that the new generations of Microsoft Word has, but its comparable to that of Word 2003 in terms of features. Word processing can be saved in formats that can be opened by MS Word (.doc) and Open Office (.odt), as well as plain text (.txt), Adobe reader (.pdf), and HTML.
Google Docs can also create spreadsheets and presentations comparable to older versions of Microsoft Office applications. When downloaded in Microsoft format, newer versions of Word, Excel, etc. can open them -- meaning you can actually get away with not buying MS Office for school (usually).
Sharing documents is easy through Google Docs as well. Given permission, other students can open and edit them right through the web interface -- Great for group projects!
It sounds like it wouldn't be all that special, but integration of other Google Applications and ease of use might make you change your mind.
Like Google Docs, Calendar can be shared among other students, as well as adding editing permissions for them if need be. Google Calendar is a cinch to use -- it has a similarity to Microsoft Outlook, but less complex. I personally replaced using a personal agenda with the Google Calendar application.
Diehard Yahoo! mail and Hotmail fans won't likely see the purpose of moving to a Gmail account, but if you use the two Google Applications above, it's easy to just integrate Gmail in as well for collaborative purposes.
Google Chat and video chat is much less invasive than its competitors as well, which is also automatically integrated into Gmail and easy to use.