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106 Best Graduation Songs That Celebrate the Moment

FlourishAnyway welcomes the opportunity to travel both stateside and abroad and especially enjoys documenting her fun through photography.

Graduate, you've worked hard for that diploma, so celebrate commencement with a graduation playlist of pop, rock, and country songs that honor your achievements, your friendships, and the excitement of your future!

Graduate, you've worked hard for that diploma, so celebrate commencement with a graduation playlist of pop, rock, and country songs that honor your achievements, your friendships, and the excitement of your future!

Celebrate Graduation Day With a Playlist

On graduation day, as you walk across the stage to grasp your diploma, consider how far you and your classmates have ventured. You haven't simply studied hard. You've dug deep down in your quest for personal excellence, triumphing over self-doubt. (Admittedly, some have dug deeper than others. You know who they are.)

With the support and guidance of teachers, parents, and others, you have transformed yourselves and made both friendships and memories that you will never forget. Now it's time to scatter to distant colleges and jobs, locations far-flung and just down the road. Take a good look at your classmates—the jocks, the nerds, the stoners, your group of close friends—because things will be different. You'll never be together like this again.

As you face the giant fork in life's road that is graduation, celebrate the moment with a graduation playlist of pop, rock, country, and R&B songs that impart advice, provide well wishes, and offer a reminder as to what's truly important in life.

1. "Hall of Fame" by The Script (featuring will.i.am)

Don't wait for luck. Inspire yourself, push through the challenges, and go get what you want. This pop song became an international favorite in 2012, and it encourages you to go follow your dreams. You can be the greatest, anything you want to be!

2. "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi offers graduates advice on living life to the fullest in this 2000 rock hit. Suggestions include making your own breaks, being authentic, and not compromising.

The refrain from the band's song is a high energy anthem for pursuing your dreams and taking control of your life:

It's my life, it's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life).

3. "Live Like We're Dying" by Kris Allen

At graduation, young adults stand proudly on the precipice of their futures, peering outward while also glancing back. This 2009 pop number by season eight American Idol winner Kris Allen is a cover of an original song by the Irish band, The Script.

The tune reminds listeners to open themselves up now and express their feelings rather than wait until it's too late. Share your love with others while you still can. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, and that's true even for young people. Is there something you need to say to someone you care about? Is there forgiveness or an apology you need to extend?

4. "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart

Graduation is a time to bid farewell to old friends as you prepare to embark on new adventures. This tender 1988 soft rock song sends you off with all the best wishes for luck, love, and a life well-lived. The narrator hopes that the young person in his life will retain the magic of youth when it is time to seek independence.

5. "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" by Baz Luhrmann (featuring Quindon Tarver)

Delivered with ironic flat affect, this 1997 spoken-word number is impressive for the long list of simple advice it offers. That wise counsel begins with wearing sunscreen—because these days, who can argue with that? However, it also includes the following truisms:

  • do one thing every day that scares you
  • sing
  • don't be jealous
  • keep old love letters and throw away bank statements and
  • enjoy your body; it's the greatest instrument you own.

In spite of being decades old, this track's advice is timeless.

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6. "Tongue Tied" by Grouplove

The highs and lows you've shared with friends in the last four years have been up close and personal. Now that it's time to say farewell, don't do it at arm's length. This 2011 alternative rock song urges you not to simply wave goodbye. Instead, say what you need to say. Unclog those feelings that are stuck on the inside and pour them right out. This is no time to be tongue-tied.

7. "We Are Young" by Fun (featuring Janelle Monáe)

In this contagious 2011 pop song, graduates are encouraged to live powerfully and vibrantly by embracing the opportunity of their youth. The songwriter was inspired to write the song following a long night of partying with friends. The Grammy Award-winning chart-topper applauds the energy and connectedness of being young:

Tonight, we are young
So let's set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun.

8. "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day

This snarky and misunderstood rock ballad from 1997 is often played at graduations. However, it's not the sweet sendoff you'd probably assume it is, in spite of its uptempo undercurrent. The title is "Good Riddance" after all.

To the contrary, the tune was written as a bitter roast to a former lover who had moved to Ecuador. It is a tribute to missed opportunities, wasted lives, and ones left behind. That, however, is part of the reality of high school—the crush you never asked out, that touchdown fumble in the state finals, and the friends you lose touch with and never hear from again. Let's not call it bitter but rather bittersweet.

9. "One Man Can Change the World" by Big Sean (featuring Kayne West & John Legend)

Rapper Big Sean wrote this 2015 song as a dedication to his grandmother, who was one of the first female black captains in World War II and one of the first female police officers in Detroit. Use its heartfelt message to spotlight the importance of unleashing the limitless potential graduates have within them:

I hope you learn to make it on your own
And if you love yourself just know you'll never be alone
I hope that you get everything you want and that you chose
I hope that it's the realest thing that you ever know
Hope you get the pretty girls, that's pretty and everything
Million dollar cribs havin' million dollar dreams
And when you get it all just remember one thing
Remember one thing
That one man could change the world.

10. "Goodbye to You" by Scandal

Perhaps the four years of high school were the best of your life so far, but if you're anything like I was, probably not. Let's face it: Those years aren't 100% fabulous for anyone.

If you can relate, then this sassy 1984 rock ditty is the ultimate fun kiss-off tune. It acknowledges that your time together has been both good and bad. It tells your classmates to have a nice life and see you never. No reason to be mean about it, right?

11. "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield

When you're a freshly minted graduate, diploma in hand, your life overflows with possibilities. This R&B-tinged pop song became an international hit in 2004. It encourages you to write your own life story by releasing any inhibitions that might prevent you from living life to its fullest. As you let your imagination run free, realize two points: 1) you can't plan every last detail and 2) only you can build the kind of life that you want.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs, American businessman

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs, American businessman

12. "Ready, Set, Don't Go" by Billy Ray Cyrus

On graduation day, all eyes are on the person donning the cap and gown, but they're not the only one who's moving on. Parents are graduating, too. Their roles are shifting as their children become adults and test their wings. In this 2007 country song, a father watches as his daughter packs her car to move away, pursuing her dreams. She's eager to strike out on her own, and it's all he can do to to keep from saying, "Don't go."

13. "You Get What You Give" by New Radicals.

Stay true to yourself, and don't give up. This perky 1998 rock tune exudes optimism, belief in yourself, and pursuing your dreams in spite of naysayers. The song is the perfect message for new graduates, advising listeners that there is a natural order to the universe:

Don't let go
I feel the music in you
Don't let go
Fly high, high
What's real, can't die
You only get what you give
You only get what you give.

Although "You Get What You Give" was a global hit and was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 50 Best Songs of the Nineties, the New Radicals couldn't repeat their success. The band became a one-hit wonder.

14. "Have It All" by Jason Mraz

Inspired by a religious encounter that the singer had with a monk in Southeast Asia, this 2018 pop song rattles off wishes that the narrator wants for his loved one. Rather than concentrating on blessings of material success, the narrator hopes that his loved one will face a variety of positive growth experiences and enjoy what money cannot buy: good health, love, and happiness.

15. "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts

Accept the well wishes of all of those who love you as you stand poised to launch the rest of your life. This 2006 country song crossed over to the mainstream pop charts and features a narrator who hopes that the future holds opportunity, few worries, and plenty of realized dreams. Additionally, he wishes that his loved one makes good choices, navigates hardships astutely, and never forgets that someone loves them.

16. "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang

Let's salute your hard-fought achievement through good times and laughter, especially now that you're graduating. This chart-topping post-disco track was a worldwide 1980 hit, and it remains a favorite way to commemorate a variety of special occasions. Such milestones include birthdays, graduations, and retirements. The soul crossover song doesn't specifically mention what event is being celebrated, so it serves as a solid, general purpose go-to.

17. "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" by Andy Grammer

Graduate, after working so hard, you've finally found your hallelujah, just like the fella in this rousing 2014 pop song. His dreams are coming true, and he feels so good to be alive. Through hard work and perseverance, he moved from being bad news to having his dreams realized, and now he's so excited he can barely contain himself. Go do your happy dance across the stage as you collect your diploma!

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." – Henry David Thoreau, American writer

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." – Henry David Thoreau, American writer

18. "In My Life" by The Beatles

Some people are true standouts in our lives, and even when they no longer dot our everyday existence, their memories still echo clearly. This mellow 1965 song is an affectionate reminder that no matter where you go, you'll carry reminders of these cherished relationships with you over the years. As you graduate, pause for a moment to reflect upon the relationships you most treasure.

19. "100 Years" by Five for Fighting

One hundred years seems like a lot, but break it down into milestones, memories, and a lifelong love relationship, and ten decades just aren't enough. This emotional soft rock song from 2003 will resonate with people both young and old, particularly at emotional life junctures like graduation.

It recounts the life journey of a man from 15 to 99, from a young dreamer to a family man with a child on the way to discontented man in middle age. As he progresses from old age to the sunset years of his life, he realizes just how short 100 years is. It's all gone by in the blink of an eye. A perfect message for graduates. Make the most of your years.

20. "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins

You've spent all these years looking forward to graduating and moving on with your future. Be careful what you ask for, however, because you're going to miss these years for the rest of your life.

This poignant country tune became a mainstream crossover hit in 2007. It features a woman at several different stages of her life:

  • a teenager who seeks to grow up and move out on her own
  • a new bride eager to start a family and
  • a young mother, overwhelmed by two screaming toddlers, a barking dog, and a broken water heater.

In each situation, the protagonist is reminded by someone wiser and more experienced to slow down and appreciate the moment because she will miss it one day. The song seemed like a natural fit for singer Trace Adkins. He is the father of five daughters.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa

Even More Graduation Songs That Celebrate the Moment

SongArtistYear Released

21. I Hope You Dance

Lee Ann Womack

2000

22. Hero

Mariah Carey

1993

23. Sing

My Chemical Romance

2010

24. Good Feeling

Flo Rida

2012

25. Don't You (Forget About Me)

Simple Minds

1985

26. For Good

Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel

2003

27. My Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Timbuk3

1986

28. A Moment Like This

Kelly Clarkson

2002

29. Senior Year

Randy Houser

2016

30. Graduation (Friends Forever)

Vitamin C

2000

31. This Could Be The Year

Ryan Star

2010

32. Float On

Modest Mouse

2004

33. Don't Stop Believin'

Journey

1981

34. Counting Stars

OneRepublic

2013

35. Miles Apart

Yellowcard

2003

36. Best Day of My Life

American Authors

2014

37. You've Got a Friend

James Taylor

1971

38. Time After Time

Cyndi Lauper

1984

39. Graduate

Handsome Ghost

2016

40. You Gotta Be

Des'ree

1994

41. Back Home

Andy Grammer

2014

42. Firework

Katy Perry

2010

43. Rivers and Roads

The Head and the Heart

2011

44. No Such Thing

John Mayer

2002

45. These Are the Days

10,000 Maniacs

1992

46. Good Old Days

Macklemore (featuring Kesha)

2017

47. Breakaway

Kelly Clarkson

2004

48. Wide Open Spaces

The Dixie Chicks

1998

49. Closing Time

Semisonic

1998

50. See You Again

Carrie Underwood

2012

51. Lean on Me

Bill Withers

1972

52. I Gotta Feeling

The Black Eyed Feelings

2009

53. Who Says

Selena Gomez and The Scene

2011

54. Happy

Pharrell Williams

2013

55. How Far We've Come

Matchbox Twenty

2007

56. Thank You for Being a Friend

Andrew Gold

1978

57. That's What Friends Are For

Dionne Warwick and Friends

1985

58. Imagine

John Lennon

1971

59. I Will Remember You

Sarah McLachlan

1993

60. 7 Years

Lukas Graham

2015

61. Get the Party Started

Pink

2001

62. Today My Life Begins

Bruno Mars

2010

63. See You Again

Wiz Khalifa (featuring Charlie Puth)

2015

64. I Believe I Can Fly

Yolanda Adams

2001

65. Life Is a Highway

Rascal Flatts

2000

66. World's Greatest

R. Kelly

2001

67. Send Me On My Way

Rusted Root

1992

68. Tonight, Tonight

The Smashing Pumpkins

1996

69. I Was Here

Beyoncé

2011

70. Little Wonders

Rob Thomas

2007

71. On My Way

Phil Collins

2004

72. Extraordinary

Mandy Moore

2007

73. High Hopes

Panic! At The Disco

2018

74. (I've Had) the Time of My Life

Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

1987

75. Brave

Sara Bareilles

2013

76. Slow Down

Nicole Nordeman

2017

77. History

One Direction

2015

78. There You'll Be

Faith Hill

2001

79. Landslide

Fleetwood Mac

1975

80. Goodbye

Spice Girls

1998

81. The Climb

Miley Cyrus

2009

82. Fly Away From Here (Graduation Day)

Dropline

2001

83. Something Big

Shawn Mendes

2014

84. Mountains

Lonestar

2006

85. Cups (When I'm Gone)

Anna Kendrick

2013

86. Never Grow Up

Taylor Swift

2010

87. It's Time

Imagine Dragons

2012

88. Graduation Song: Hold Onto the Memories

Corey Tynan

2010

89. Humble and Kind

Tim McGraw

2016

90. You Can Come Back Home

Matt Simons

2007

91. We Are the Champions

Queen

1977

92. Please Remember

Leann Rimes

2000

93. No Such Thing

John Mayer

1999

94. One Moment in TIme

Whitney Houston

1988

95. Don't Blink

Kenney Chesney

2007

96. Here's to the Night

Eve 6

2000

97. Long Live

Taylor Swift

2010

98. I Want You To Know

Zedd (featuring Selena Gomez)

2015

99. Whenever You Remember

Carrie Underwood

2005

100. Fly

Avril Lavigne

2015

101. I'm On Top Of the World

Imagine Dragons

2012

102. You've Got Another Thing Coming

Judas Priest

1982

103. Break My Stride

Matthew Wilder

1983

104. Forever Young

Alphaville

1984

105. Thnks Fr Th Mmrs

Fall Out Boy

2005

106. Faith of the Heart

Rod Stewart

1998

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 FlourishAnyway

Comments

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2020:

Former President Obama will host some type of televised graduation ceremony for all of this year's graduating seniors. I am sure he will do a good job of it and make it a memorable event, and yet, a safe one for everyone involved.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 14, 2020:

Nell - It's hard to believe he's 58 years old! Thanks for stopping by.

Robert Sacchi on May 13, 2020:

Thank you. "Enterprise" introduced me to this song. The Canadian Snowbirds, air demonstration team, also included it in one of their air shows.

Nell Rose from England on May 13, 2020:

Now I have Bon Jovi going around and around in my brain, lol! Great list of songs as always.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 13, 2020:

Devika - Thank you for taking the time to comment. Be well and happy.

Devika Primic on May 13, 2020:

I like the list of your songs here. Songs do have a hold on some people be it a happy one or sad one.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 12, 2020:

Dora - You're right -- triumph, sadness, belonging, regret, glee -- lots of emotions! Hope you're doing well. Thanks for chiming in!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 12, 2020:

Bob - Thanks for that suggestion! I'll add it! Great suggestion!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 12, 2020:

There are so many mixed emotions at graduation time. Everyone needs a song or two to get them through the maze. Great compilation!

Robert Sacchi on May 11, 2020:

Another fun list. For graduation I'm partial to "Faith of the Heart" by Rod Stewart.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 11, 2020:

Nithya - I like that song a lot too. I'm glad you had some time to listen to several of the songs.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 11, 2020:

A great list of songs for celebrating graduation the day we all eagerly wait for. But after graduation, we do miss all the fun we had with our friends. My favorite is"We Are Young" by Fun (featuring Janelle Monáe), enjoyed going through and listening to the songs.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 11, 2020:

Pamela - I hope your Mother's Day was wonderful as well. Thanks for stopping by!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 10, 2020:

Heidi - High school is a really tough time on a lot of people. I was glad to be done with it although I had a harder time with middle school. I can't imagine you being a dork. I hope you have a terrific and safe week ahead!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 10, 2020:

This is certainly the perfect time of year for these songs. There are so many good songs and some I have not heard before. This is an excellent article.

Happy Mother's day, Flourish.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on May 10, 2020:

Well, I was in the "something else" category in H.S. "Dork" (so awkward) would be the most accurate description. Do the youngsters still use that term anymore? But then when I got to be an adult, thankfully, I shed the dorkiness. H.S. is just the worst!

Lots of great choices in this list! Since kids can go to prom and grad parties this year, they can just load up the list and prom-at-home.

Hope you're still doing well. Have a great Sunday!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 09, 2020:

Chitrangada - I appreciate your sharing your memories here. Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the playlist.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 08, 2020:

Excellent article, and a wonderful list of graduation songs.

Graduation is a proud moment, a great sense of achievement, with dreams for the future. I graduated long time back. But I can see that there are songs, from those times too. How wonderful!

We did celebrate with songs in our times. Your article made me nostalgic.

Thanks for sharing this awesome article.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 08, 2020:

Linda - I'm sorry to hear about your cancelled reunion plans. It's not the same, but I hope the group can plan a catchup on a social media platform so at least you know what happened to everyone.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 07, 2020:

I didn't realize that there were so many songs about graduation! Your article made me think of my high school graduation and the people that I knew. There was going to be a reunion this summer, but it's been cancelled because of the virus pandemic. I'm sorry for this year's grads. It's a difficult time for them.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Mary - I would too. On the positive side, at least they're not going off to war.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Vidya - Thank you for your kind comment. The Bon Jovi song is one of my very favorites too! Have a wonderful day.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Linda - If it were my kid graduating this year, I'd probably go over the top decorating the yard in Christmas-type lights (perhaps in school colors) plus Happy Graduation / 2020 lawn ornaments. I'd make my own and they'd be bright, flashy, and get lots of attention for the graduate. And I'd arrange a car parade of well wishers and make the kid wear their cap and gown so they can wave and talk with relatives and friends in their cars. There's nothing like going over the top!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Peggy - That was so kind of that school principal. I really hope those students appreciate his commitment to them.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 07, 2020:

It's an interesting comparison.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Liz - Now you have me wondering what the relative graduation rates from high school are by country. Eww, I looked it up. The UK has a high school graduation rate of 92%, contrasted with the US rate of 76%. Maybe that helps to explain it.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Bill - You have me laughing because if you only knew! There have been a couple over the years, actually. Not everyone plays with a full deck, and some people are overly intense about their music and their opinions.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Bill - They certainly will miss out on some memorable experiences. I don't know how you could necessarily fill in for that but maybe instead their parents, teachers, and classmates can come up with something very different and memorable. Not sure what that would be but some creative person can come up with something, I bet.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 07, 2020:

This is a bit of consolation for the graduates who will not enjoy their graduation. I would play this every day just to make myself feel better.

VIDYA D SAGAR on May 07, 2020:

We feel the same joy when our children graduate and makes us feel nostalgic. A good list of songs apt for the event, Flourish. My favorite is It's my life by Bon Jovi. Thank you.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 07, 2020:

Flourish, I barely remember my graduation anymore (good GOLLY it was a long time ago), but I certainly remember my daughters'. Lots of great songs here (I especially like the ones from the '70s and '80s). There is a lot of disappointment this year because there will be no commencement for the 2020 graduates but there are some interesting plans to help them be recognized nevertheless. Thanks for a great list.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 07, 2020:

Because of the pandemic, many graduation ceremonies will not happen. Here is a true story recently featured on the news. A school principal in Texas recently drove about 800 miles to personally visit (from a social distance in the yard) each of his graduating seniors to congratulate every one of them. That made this year memorable for him as well as his students.

You have a long list of songs here that fit this category nicely.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 07, 2020:

This is a great list. Graduation from high school is a much bigger thing in the USA than in the UK, where we talk about graduation from university.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 07, 2020:

We are the champions....my first thought...but you named 100 Years, one of my all-time favorite songs, so I'm happy with that. I'm trying to figure out how you attracted a troll with this series of articles. Some people have way too much time on their hands. :)

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on May 07, 2020:

I feel for the 2020 graduates who will not get to experience the traditional graduation ceremony. Times certainly have changed very quickly. There are some wonderful tunes on the list. Even though my graduation was a long time ago it was a memorable experience.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Mark - Thanks for stopping by.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

MG - Thanks for visiting. I also graduated a long time ago but it's nice to look back, especially with children as they graduate. Have a wonderful day!

Mark Tulin from Santa Barbara, California on May 06, 2020:

My favorite is Long May You Run by Neil Young. Thanks for the list, Flourish.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 06, 2020:

Flourish, I graduated a long time back but your selection made feel nostalgia for those days.

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