55 Songs for a Graduation Playlist

It's Cap and Gown Time

Use these songs to salute new graduates.  Congratulate grads and send them off in style with a customized playlist using these rock, pop, R&B, and country favorites.
Use these songs to salute new graduates. Congratulate grads and send them off in style with a customized playlist using these rock, pop, R&B, and country favorites. | Source

Commencement: Celebrate It With Song

Commencement marks both the end of an era and a new life chapter. At first, it's hard to believe you've finally arrived as you take senior year photos, go through rehearsals, and get fitted for your graduation cap and gown. Then you walk across the stage to accept that precious diploma that you've worked so hard to earn.

At some point during the festivities the realization sits heavy, a bittersweet lump in your throat: You'll never be together with your classmates like this again. Paths diverge. Some of your friends will venture to far shores and places unknown, others will quickly circle back home. Where will life's adventures take you?

Celebrate this special life transition with a customized graduation playlist. Whether you're a graduate or a friend or family member of one, the following songs that are perfect for graduation time. Below you'll find:

  • Songs 1-16: Songs that Uplift, Encourage and Celebrate
  • Songs 17-26: Reflective Graduation Songs
  • Songs 27-31: Songs That Honor the Achievement
  • Songs 32-50: Goodbye Songs
  • Songs 51-55: Bonus Tracks!

Celebrate this time in your life! Go reach your dreams!

Songs 1-16: Songs that Uplift, Encourage and Celebrate

1. "Good Feeling" by Flo Rida

Full of positive energy, this 2012 song describes how he's "running with this plan." Feeling fully confident, his lyrics proclaim: "I'll be the President one day," "I got a brand new spirit," and "giving up's not an option." This message of encouragement and confidence is a perfect send-off for new graduates.

2. "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas

This 2009 feel good song is both high energy and celebratory — a great song for applauding the years of hard work that went into that degree or diploma.

3. "I'm On Top Of the World" by Imagine Dragons

Graduation is like standing on a mountain top, having paid your dues through hard work. This 2012 song celebrates that achievement.

4. "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors

This indie band has an irrepressibly upbeat outlook on the day ahead, and with an attitude like this life can only get better! You won't go wrong with this 2013 song.

5. "Firework" by Katy Perry

In this 2010 song, the irrepressible Katy Perry will renew your sense of empowerment, urging you on to even bigger and better achievements. Graduates will feel uplifted with her message: you are unique, worthy, and going places in this world.

6. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey

Nevermind that the "south Detroit" that they refer to doesn't exist (it's actually in Canada). This 1981 song deserves to be belted out from the rafters. If you don't believe in yourself, then who else will?

7. "Extraordinary" by Mandy Moore

This uplifting 2007 song encourages the new graduate to reach within himself or herself for all that is unique. Be the extraordinary person you are meant to be!

8. "I Want You To Know" by Zedd (featuring Selena Gomez)

According to this 2015 song, everyone has a magic time in their lives when everything seems to be clicking for them. For graduates, hopefully now is it!

9. "Fly" by Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne (2015) inspires new diploma holders with this uplifting ballad, urging them forward and upward as take their place on life's grand stage:

Spread your wings, across the universe
It's your time to, it's your time to shine
There's a light inside all of us
Soon, you'll find that it's your time to fly
It's your time to fly.

10. "You Get What You Give" by New Radicalss

This song from 1998 reminds new graduates that they must have the music in them. It encourages them not to let their dreams die and further promises that the world is going to pull them through if they just don't give up.

One last selfie for old time's sake
One last selfie for old time's sake | Source

11. "Sing" by My Chemical Romance

Stay true to your inner voice by singing loudly so that the whole world can hear your song. Do it for yourself and for those whose voices cannot be heard. This is the powerful message of this 2010 hit.

12. "This Could Be The Year" by Ryan Star

Ryan Star (2010) inspires graduates to get ready because this could be the year that they unleash their full potential on the world, showing everyone what they're truly made of:

This could be the year
This could be the moment
You've been waiting your whole life to show
The world the cards you're holding.

13. "Hero" by Mariah Carey

This 1993 hit assures newly minted graduates that there is strength and bravery in each of us to reach our dreams. Go out and conquer the world!

14. "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield

This powerful 2004 song carries an important message of self-empowerment. New graduates have the power to write their own life stories:

Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.

15. "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic

OneRepublic (2013) captures the struggle that all of us face in meeting our financial obligations while also fulfilling our wishes and dreams:

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming 'bout the things that we could be
Baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be counting stars.

16. "Life Is A Highway" by Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts (2006) compares life's journey to riding on a highway, where the road can be bumpy, winding, and take you to distant shores. The one thing roadtrips aren't, however, is boring:

There's no load I can't hold
A road so rough this I know
I'll be there when the light comes in
Tell 'em we're survivors.

Songs 17-26: Reflective Graduation Songs

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

Don't be in such a hurry to grow up. One day you'll look back and realize that this was the time of your life. That's what Trace Adkins advises in this tender country hit from 2007:

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this.

18. "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper

This heartfelt ballad from 1984 is about being emotionally available for someone if they need you, even after they have moved on from your life. It's good to know that there are old friends you can count on.

19. These Are the Days" by 10,000 Maniacs

This 1992 hit reminds graduates that even though they may be in a rush to move on to the next phase of their lives, years from now they'll look back fondly on these years.

20. "Thank You for Being a Friend" by Andrew Gold

This classic tune by Andrew Gold (1978) describes how thankful a man is for his friend and how he intends to value their friendship for as long as the two are alive. Although it is a nostalgic, classic, (okay ... OLD) tune, it's worthy of reviving for graduation day. (The more that graduates age, the more they will discover that old is awesome, too.)

21. "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly

R. Kelly encourages perseverance and self-belief even in the face of obstacles in this R&B hit from 1996. New graduates and others can learn from him:

If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it
I believe I can fly.

22. "Wide Open Spaces" by The Dixie Chicks

In this 1998 country hit, the Dixie Chicks describe the freedom that all of us seek as young adults as we head off into the world on our own.

23. "I Was Here" by Beyoncé

Life transitions are a time to reflect on the impact you make on the world, and graduation is no different. Beyoncé (2011) conveys her desire to be remembered in a positive way:

I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone some happiness
Left this world a little better just because, I was here.

24. "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons

Alternative rock band Imagine Dragons (2012) describes commitment to being true to one's inner core, even in the face of large changes.

25. "Don't Blink" by Kenny Chesney

This 2007 country song describes a universal truth: Life passes quickly and is over before you know. The message to graduates is that they should figure out what is important so you can appreciate it accordingly.

School's Out

Soon, school will be out forever, but don't ever stop learning.
Soon, school will be out forever, but don't ever stop learning. | Source

26. "100 Years" by Five for Fighting

We each have about 100 years to enjoy this life, if we are lucky. At the outset, it seems like that is plenty. As young people, we often seek to rush life along so that we can get to the next stage. As we grow older, however, time seems to speed up so that by the end of the journey, we may look back and realize that some of the best times were the ones we sought to have pass quickly. Graduates should enjoy every stage and contemplate the message as they listen to this song by Five For Fighting (2003).

Reader Poll

For me, high school was ...

  • EXTRAORDINARY - the best days of my life
  • MIXED - I was waiting for my real life to begin
  • NOT SO GOOD - I flew away and didn't look back
See results without voting

Songs 27-31: Songs That Honor the Achievement

27. "A Moment Like This" by Kelly Clarkson

When Kelly Clarkson won the first American Idol competition in 2002, this song ushered her into pop stardom. Its heartfelt lyrics reflect a sentimental blending of both thankfulness and the inner dialog that asks, "Pinch me. Am I really here?" Many graduates are probably thinking those same thoughts after having studied so hard for so long.

28. "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus

Back in 2009 when Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana, she sang this number about facing uphill battles, keeping your head held high, and making it to the other side.

29. "We Are The Champions" by Queen

This 1977 power ballad is one of rock music's most recognizable and catchiest sing-a-long songs. Particularly when the road to graduation hasn't been an easy one, maybe it's an appropriate survivor's anthem:

I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I've come through.

29. "Long Live" by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift (2012) conveys a tale of teenage rebellion ... triumphantly collecting school awards and being named prom kings and queens as the crowds that went wild. In the mind's eye, may these days live forever.

31. "Mountains" by Lonestar

If they haven't learned it already, graduates will find that the road in life is not always flat. May they take comfort, however, in knowing that obstacles are meant to strengthen us and teach us to climb. This 2006 country song provides good advice.

Songs 32-50: Goodbye Songs

32. "Never Alone" by Lady Antebellum

Graduation is a time when paths diverge. Graduates can let dear friends and loved ones know that they them wish the best with this tender goodbye ballad from 2007.

33. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

No graduate arrives at the stage and receives his or her diploma alone. Celebrate all the memories and people who have made graduation possibles using this Grammy Award-winning song from 1987.

34. "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts (2006) will leave a lump in your throat with this sweet sendoff that wishes the graduate all the best that life has to offer:

Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

35. "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack

In this hit song from 2000, a mother wishes her daughter all the best that the world has to offer. She hopes that fear and negativity are trumped by courage, curiosity, and wonder.

36. "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson

This 2004 song should resonate with graduates who are leaving home to begin a new chapter in their lives. Sometimes you need to spread your wings and fly far away and "take a risk, take a chance, make a change."

37. "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart

Like an Irish blessing, this song from 1988 wishes graduates all the best in love, wisdom, and good fortune. It's an ideal way to give them a spirited sendoff.

38. "Goodbye To You" by Scandal

If you want a fun, irreverant goodbye for new graduates, then pick this 1982 tune by Scandal.

39. "See You Again" by Carrie Underwood

In this 2013 farewell song, Carrie Underwood says she won't be lonely because parting is only temporary.

I will see you again, oh
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me ... .

40. "Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root

This peppy song from 1995 has been used in a number of film and television shows. It captures the exuberance of moving on.

41. "Here's To the Night" by Eve 6

There's a moment in every graduating senior's life when you're hit with the realization that you'll never be together with this group of people again -- people you've liked and loved, bickered with and gossiped about, and pulled pranks on. Now, you're headed in different directions. Alternative rock band Eve 6 offers up this 2001 song that captures that bittersweet realization:

Here's to the nights we felt alive
Here's to the tears you knew you'd cry
Here's to goodbye
Tomorrow's gonna come too soon.

42. "Whenever You Remember" by Carrie Underwood

In this 2005 song, country songstress Carrie Underwood hopes that her friends will look back on this time with pride and remember the togetherness and accomplishments they shared.

43. "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds

As graduates get ready to don their caps and gowns and follow diverging paths, some will stay connected and others won't. Make the memories live forever. This 1985 song is a classic that appeared in "The Breakfast Club."

44. "Rivers and Roads" by The Head and the Heart

After graduation, friends will move away. A year from now they'll all be scattered, and all that will remain will be the memories. This folk song from 2011 captures the eagerness of looking forward and the realization that one's relationships will never be quite the same.

45. "I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan

Play this somber number by Sarah McLachlan (1995) when you want to remind your graduate that this is the end of an era and it'll never be the same again. Pass the Kleenex.

46. "On My Way" by Phil Collins

This buoyant song from 2003 will have graduates looking forward to new adventures and friends that await. When they reconnect with old friends at home, they'll have wonderful stories to share.

47. "There You'll Be" by Faith Hill

Graduates can take comfort in this song by Faith Hill (2001). It describes carrying a part of people who are important to us with everywhere we go.

48. "Fly Away From Here (Graduation Day)" by Dropline

This 2002 song describes the surreal feeling of what to do next after taking the "walk of fame" on graduation day.

The Tassel's Worth the Hassle

No graduate arrives at the commencement stage without the assistance of many people:  parents, teachers, friends, and other supporters.
No graduate arrives at the commencement stage without the assistance of many people: parents, teachers, friends, and other supporters. | Source

49. "Please Remember" by Leann Rimes

In this goodbye song from 2000, Leeann Rimes urges her friend to remember the support and good times they shared.

50. "For Good" by Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel

From the Broadway muscial "Wicked" (2003) Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel share a message that many would love to speak if only they could find find the words as they part ways. Appropriate for graduation, it describes being changed for the better because of knowing someone else. Isn't there someone you'd like to thank in this way?

Even More Songs For Graduation

Year Released
51. My Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades
52. You Gotta Be
53. Back Home
Andy Grammer
54. Lean On Me
Bill Withers
55. That's What Friends Are For
Dionne Warwick and Friends

© 2015 Governor's Academy for Engineering Studies

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Comments 2 comments

GAES STEM profile image

GAES STEM 12 months ago from Chesterfield, Virginia Author

Patricia - Thanks for sharing and pinning this graduation playlist. Have a wonderful weekend in sunny Florida.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 12 months ago from sunny Florida

Yes.....Life IS a highway for many tunes that tip the hat to what we feel each time we graduate....(for those of us to graduated several times after high school)...for me, the experience of graduating felt the same in many respects as that first graduation.

Many great songs here to help us relish the moment...

Angels are on the way to you this early morning hour ps

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