With summer vacation having come and gone far too quickly — at least as far as students are concerned — elementary and high schools began classes this week.

Autumn doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 22, so, depending on their age, students may feel they deserve more time at the beach, at local playgrounds, or making some extra money at summer jobs. And if the weather remains warm well into September, we really can’t blame students who think they’ve been shortchanged of some summertime fun.

These days, many schools give students quite a bit of summer reading and related projects to keep them busy when they aren’t at the beach — and there have been more than enough rainy days so that the beach wasn’t always an option. We’re sure there are quite a few students who viewed this summer work as an unfair burden.

But in today’s competitive climate, educators believe that students deserve every advantage. If summer reading keeps students’ skills intact when classes aren’t in session, that’s a good thing, the theory goes. And we can’t say we disagree.

Some schools in the state are dealing with the economic turmoil that has led all of us to try to tighten our belts. School and town officials coped with the necessity of preserving and expanding upon our excellent school systems at the same time they tried to be as frugal as possible. It wasn’t always easy, and we commend these local officials for dealing realistically with a challenging situation.

For students heading back to class, we have some advice: Make the most of these all-too-brief years when the acquisition of knowledge is your principle task.

Look at it this way: Your parents have jobs in which their supervisors judge them and (if they’re lucky, these days) award salary increases. In school, students are judged by their teachers, with the reward for good performance being good grades.

Yet grades shouldn’t be students’ primary goal. Learning is the most important thing. If students absorb as much knowledge as they can as they progress through their school years, good grades will follow. And students will definitely discover that learning can be fun.

All too soon, your school years will be over. If you’re lucky, you’ll continue to learn valuable lessons throughout your entire lives, attending graduate classes in the world-famous School of Hard Knocks with which your parents are so familiar. But you’ll have to find time for reading and study in between career and family responsibilities.

Pay attention in class, even if you initially find particular subjects to be boring. You may discover that history, or English, or math, are more fascinating as you delve more deeply into them. Inspiring teachers will be of great help in this effort; we hope you come upon your share of such gifted educators.

Above all, be open to the world of knowledge and learning. We hope you grow to love it.

(Editor’s note: This editorial has been adapted from an editorial that ran this week in Milford-Orange Bulletin sister newspapers.)