The Top 40 Graduation Songs From All Time

Use them for ceremonies or parties

Graduation, or commencement, is one of the most important and memorable ceremonies in life, and the music that accompanies the day will often be remembered right along with its events. Here are 40 of the most proven and durable songs for helping you celebrate a graduation.

of 40

Natasha Bedingfield: 'Unwritten'

Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten

Arista Records

As you graduate, it makes perfect sense to sing or shout "Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten..." Natasha Bedingfield's hit "Unwritten" is tailor-made for events like commencement ceremonies.

of 40

Carrie Underwood: 'Whenever You Remember'

Carrie Underwood Some Hearts

Arista Records

Carrie Underwood is one of the most popular of all ​"American Idol"​champions. In "Whenever You Remember" she is in a mellow mood of remembering the past and preparing to move forward with heads held high.

of 40

Billy Joel: 'Vienna'

Billy Joel - The Stranger

Columbia Records

Sometimes in the midst of such a major life event as graduation, it is hard to remember to relax and slow down and let some things unfold on their own. Billy Joel's ballad "Vienna" from his 1977 album "The Stranger" helps us keep the importance of slowing down in mind.

of 40

My Chemical Romance: 'Sing'

My Chemical Romance "Sing"

Reprise Records

"Sing" is an anthemic call to raising your voice and being heard even when you face opposition. My Chemical Romance has created a winner of a song for helping celebrate a point in life in which self-identity is of utmost importance.

of 40

The Beach Boys: 'Graduation Day'

The Beach Boys
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

The Beach Boys' song "Graduation Day" is somewhat rare. However, it is well worth hearing and adding to the mix of songs played at the time of graduation. Recorded live in 1967, the song's first release was digital-only in 2017.

of 40

Taylor Swift: 'A Place in This World'

Taylor Swift "Taylor Swift"

Big Machine

"A Place in This World" by Taylor Swift is most appropriate for female graduates. However, its air of quiet confidence in the face of the unknown is certainly applicable to graduates of any gender.

of 40

Florence and the Machine: 'Shake It Out'

Florence and the Machine - "Shake It Out"


It is hard to celebrate if you are lost in the fears and insecurities of the past. This is the message delivered by Florence and the Machine. Vocalist Florence Welch's towering anthem to confidence in the future, "Shake It Out," will help even the most fearful shake it off.

of 40

Katy Perry: 'Firework'

Katy Perry "Firework"

Capitol Records

Katy Perry's #1 smash hit single "Firework" is a clear call for positive self-esteem. It is an upbeat song perfect for graduation parties and ceremonies.

of 40

Celine Dion: 'These Are the Special Times'

Celine Dion - These Are Special Times


For a focus on the graduation day itself, Celine Dion reminds graduates in "These Are the Special Times" to revel in the day as an unforgettable and precious one.

of 40

Rembrandts: 'I'll Be There for You'

The Rembrandts "I'll Be There for You"

Atlantic Records

Everyone needs friends as they head from school into the "real world." "I'll Be There for You" is one of energetic reassurance among close friends as they face the tough moments ahead.

of 40

Flo Rida: 'Good Feeling'

Flo Rida - "Good Feeling"


In the song "Good Feeling,"​ Flo Rida gave us an outstanding dance and party anthem for celebrating those great feelings that can come with acknowledging what we have accomplished. The Etta James sample in the song is a glorious tribute to upbeat emotions.

of 40

Queen: 'We Are the Champions'

Michael Putland/Getty Images

The Queen classic "We Are the Champions" never fails to provoke a warm, possibly tearful, singalong.

of 40

Nickelback: 'Photograph'

Nickelback Photograph

Roadrunner Records

Nickelback struck a nostalgic chord with pop audiences on the hit single "Photograph." Most all of the memories fondly cataloged in the course of the song are events from school years.

of 40

Foo Fighters: 'Times Like These'

Foo Fighters - "Times Like These"


If you need a rock song for a graduation soundtrack, the classic hit "Times Like These" from the Foo Fighters fits the bill. It was a top 5 alternative hit in 2003, but extensive use of the song in TV, movies, and video games has helped keep it among the most memorable of Foo Fighters songs. The words speak of a new day in which you learn to live and love again.

of 40

Rusted Root: 'Send Me on My Way'

Rusted Root - When I Woke


It's always an amazing sensation to gather others around to help send you forward in life's next great adventure, and Rusted Root's "Send Me on My Way" certainly fits.

of 40

Yael Naim: 'New Soul'

Yael Naim - New Soul

Atlantic Records

Yael Naim sings about being a "New Soul" in the world and the mistakes one is bound to make. However, she is forthright in stating this scary new place brings joy in addition to fear.

of 40

Jordin Sparks: 'One Step at a Time'

Jordin Sparks - One Step At a Time

Jive Records

Former "American Idol" champion Jordin Sparks reminds us in "One Step at a Time" that you can reach your dreams by taking things gradually and always moving forward. There is no rush, but you can indeed show the world who you are.

of 40

Kelly Clarkson: 'Breakaway'

Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway

RCA Records

"Breakaway" is probably the perfect graduation song for those who never felt they completely fit in during high school. However, Kelly Clarkson's inspiring expression of the desire to spread one's wings wide to escape the mundane has universal appeal.

of 40

Miley Cyrus: 'The Climb'

Miley Cyrus - "The Climb"

Hollywood Records

Miley Cyrus' big ballad "The Climb" became an instant inspirational classic when released in 2009. It speaks of keeping focused as the most important part of the journey to success. That powerful reminder is particularly appropriate when celebrating graduations.

of 40

Eve 6: 'Here's to the Night'

Annamaria DiSanto/WireImage

The lush, wistful ballad "Here's to the Night" will leave many graduates misty-eyed thinking of the memorable moments of the years shared with their friends.

of 40

Mandy Moore: 'Extraordinary'

Mandy Moore announced her step into the world of adult recording artists with this tremendous song about spreading one's wings and becoming truly "Extraordinary." It works perfectly at that moment of leaving high school or college to take one's place in the larger world.

of 40

Cast of 'Rent': 'Seasons of Love'



Songs that originated in Broadway musicals often work very well for ceremonial events like graduation. "Seasons of Love" from "Rent," an ode to measuring time through love, absolutely can cap the years in high school or college.

of 40

Mariah Carey: 'Hero'

Mariah Carey - Hero

Columbia Records

Mariah Carey's hit "Hero" is a great reminder that if you look deep inside, you can find powerful inner strength. Even if you feel alone, you can find someone within to support and guide you.

of 40

Grouplove: 'Tongue Tied'



Graduation is a time to celebrate our friends. The alternative pop band Grouplove put together an outstanding anthem to friendship in "Tongue Tied" that will sound perfect as part of your celebration soundtrack.

of 40

Baz Luhrman: 'Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)'

Baz Luhrmann - "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)"


The spoken word novelty "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" is one of the most unusual of hit songs. The nuggets of wisdom dispensed here do have resonance.

of 40

Rascal Flatts: 'My Wish'

Rascal Flatts - "My Wish"

Lyric Street

"My Wish" is sung as a gift to a loved one, and Rascal Flatts say nearly all there is to say about dreaming big for someone.

of 40

The Script: 'Live Like We're Dying'

The Script - The Script

Sony BMG

Before "American Idol" champion Kris Allen made "Live Like We're Dying" a hit in the United States, the Irish band the Script recorded the original version. It is a call to live with purpose and let loved ones know how important they are. These are worthwhile sentiments to communicate to a new graduate.

of 40

Nicki Minaj: 'Fly,' featuring Rihanna

Nicki Minaj - "Fly" featuring Rihanna

Cash Money

Nicki Minaj's hit single "Fly" delivers a truly uplifting message that is at its most powerful in the chorus sung by Rihanna. It is a perfect song to have at your back when taking on the world.

of 40

10,000 Maniacs: 'These Are Days'

10,000 Maniacs - "These Are Days"


The 10,000 Maniacs classic "These Are Days," from the band's years with Natalie Merchant as lead vocalist, will help identify graduation as a time when you'll know "that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you." The song closes with the hopefulness that awareness of direction for the future can make itself known in any moment.

of 40

Sarah McLachlan: 'I Will Remember You'

Sarah McLachlan
Steve Eichner/WireImage/Getty Images

The tone is a bit wistful for celebrations, but at the heart of Sarah McLachlan's gorgeous song "I Will Remember You" is a promise among friends.

of 40

Black Eyed Peas: 'I Gotta Feeling'

Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feelin'


There is no better song to kick off an evening of celebration than the instant classic "I Gotta Feeling" from the Black Eyed Peas. Use it to launch your graduation celebration.

of 40

R. Kelly: 'I Believe I Can Fly'

R. Kelly - "I Believe I Can Fly"


If you have a choir at your graduation ceremony, "I Believe I Can Fly" is the perfect song to give them to sing. It is pure inspiration for the future.

of 40

Cyndi Lauper: 'True Colors'

Cyndi Lauper - "True Colors"


Tailor-made for those who have endured difficult years, Cyndi Lauper's '80s hit "True Colors" is also a warm reminder that all of us are beautiful.

of 40

New Radicals: 'You Get What You Give'

New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"


New Radicals are a one-hit wonder, but the one song they gave us is a gem. Portions of the lyrics to "You Get What You Give" remain a bit controversial, but the basic point is a celebration of the power of youth. This makes it perfect for honoring the feeling of personal strength and readiness to take on the world after graduation.

of 40

Lee Ann Womack: 'I Hope You Dance'

Lee Ann Womack - "I Hope You Dance"

MCA Nashville

There is no other song that is better at reminding us of the importance of being totally engaged, keeping our sense of awe at the world, and recognizing the importance of fun in life than "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack.

of 40

Josh Groban: 'You Raise Me Up'

Josh Groban - Closer


One of the key songs that introduced the world to the enormous talent of Josh Groban was also a huge hit in the United Kingdom for Westlife. Lyrically, "You Raise Me Up" is a simple hymn of gratitude to those who lift us higher than we may climb on our own.

of 40

Idina Menzel: 'Defying Gravity' from 'Wicked'

Wicked Original Cast

Decca Broadway

Since its original release as a part of the cast recording of the hit Broadway show "Wicked" in 2003, the song "Defying Gravity" has been an inspiration to countless people looking to break out of restrictions to find a new life. It is a perfect song for celebrating graduation and looking forward.

of 40

Green Day: 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)'

Green Day
Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" Green Day song relates directly to transitional events in life. It is a song where the band toned down punk influences and created a timeless track that appeals equally to pop and rock fans.

of 40

Vitamin C: 'Graduation (Friends Forever)'

Vitamin C


Colleen Fitzpatrick, the former lead vocalist for the group Eve's Plum, recorded under the name Vitamin C as a solo artist. "Graduation" was one of the standout cuts on the album "Vitamin C," released in 1999. It was an instant graduation classic pulling in the power of memories and the value of friends forever. It works well sung live with a chorus as well.

of 40

Sir Edward Elgar: 'Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 In D'

Sir Edward Elgar
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty images

"Pomp and Circumstance," by English composer Sir Edward Elgar, was first played in Liverpool, England, in 1901. In the United States it was first performed at a graduation ceremony in 1905 when Elgar was invited to Yale University to receive an honorary degree. Today, the section "Land Of Hope and Glory" that begins just under two minutes in is played as a processional at nearly every graduation ceremony across the country.