Adultescence Lifestyle

50 Graduation Quotes to Inspire the Next Phase of Your Life

Go forth and conquer. Or at least, try your best.

College graduation season is here! Thousands of students across the nation are celebrating Senior Week, bidding their adieus, and trying to figure out how to put their graduation caps on (lots of bobby pins, people). Time to get after those diplomas and then cure your hangover by dozing off to a mediocre speech stuffed with cliche graduation quotes.

“Commencement speeches were invented largely in the belief that outgoing college students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated.” 

—Gary Trudeau

Between the greeting card industry and social media, we’re guessing a lot of you are on the hunt for some inspirational quotes to pair with your graduation pics on Instagram, or to take up space in that card for your best friend’s boyfriend. According to Hallmark, everyone deserves a card.

So, if you traded flowery language for business acumen in college, we’ve got you covered with a list of quotes about graduation, from the inspiring to the humorous to the Instagrammable.
Graduation Quotes - Dorothy L Sayers quote

“I always have a quotation for everything – it saves original thinking.”
Dorothy L. Sayers

50 Graduation Quotes for Every Situation

Whether you’re DIY-ing your own card, seeking the perfect Insta caption, or serving as the “cool” commencement speaker, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re delivering a ~quirky~ commencement speech…

1. “Be wise, because the world needs wisdom. If you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.”

—Neil Gaiman

2. “Graduation: A ritual event where they award you a diploma, in the hope that you have learned enough to be able to read it.”


3. “Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that.”

—Ellen DeGeneres

4. “To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you too may one day be president of the United States.”

—George W. Bush

5. “Struggling to decide what to do after graduation is, and always will be, a sort of rite of passage to the next phase of your life.”

—Gloria Davidson

6. “Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.”

—Stephen Colbert

7. “The unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life, is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective.”

—Jon Stewart

8. “Sometimes you find out what you are supposed to be doing by doing the things you are not supposed to do.”

—Oprah Winfrey

9. “Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for you being here. Make good art.”

—Neil Gaiman

10. “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Winston Churchill

Graduation Quotes - Gloria Davidson quote

If you want to counteract your post grad blues with inspiration…

11. “You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.”

—Tom Brokaw

12. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

—Mark Twain

13. “Forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart and success will come to you.”

—Oprah Winfrey

14. “Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.”

—Ed Helms

15. “To me, Fearless is not the absence of fear. It’s not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death.”

—Taylor Swift

16. “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
Michelle Obama

17. “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

—Ruth Bader Ginsburg

18. “Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.”

—Eckhart Tolle

19. “Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”

Denzel Washington

20. “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

—Judy Garland

Graduation Quotes - Denzel Washington quote

If you’re making a handmade card (because Hallmark cards are overpriced)…

21. “Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead”

—Nora Ephron

22. “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

—Martin Luther King Jr.

23. “Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

—Dr. Seuss

24. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

—Steve Jobs

25. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

—Henry David Thoreau

26. “Fight for what makes you optimistic about the world. Find it, insist on it, dig into it, go after it.”

—Jennifer Garner

27. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

28. “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society

29. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Dr. Seuss

30. “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

—Milton Berle

Graduation Quotes - Steve Jobs quote

If you want graduation quotes that highlight the value of a fine education…

31. “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”

—Alfred Mercier

32. “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

—Benjamin Franklin

33. “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

—B.B. King

34. “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

—John Dewey

35. “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

—Nelson Mandela

36. “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

—Malcolm X

37. “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”

—Oscar Wilde

38. “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”

—Sydney Harris

39. “Change is the end result of all true learning.”

—Leo Buscaglia

40. “A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers.”

—Helen Keller

Graduation Quotes - Malcolm X quote

If you need an Instagram caption for your graduation pictures…

41. “You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the numbers of times you get back up.”

—Aaron Sorkin

42. “In response to those who say to stop dreaming and face reality, I say keep dreaming and make reality.”

—Kristian Kan

43. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

—Michael Jordan

44. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

—Steve Jobs

45. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”


46. “She doesn’t even go here.”

Mean Girls

47. “All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

—Walt Disney

48. “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”


49. “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.”

—Lady Gaga

50. “Don’t try to lessen yourself for the world; let the world catch up to you.”


Graduation Quotes - Don't Try to lessen yourself for the world. Let the world catch up to you." Beyonce

If there’s one thing we should have all learned in college, it’s how to not plagiarize. No need for MLA citations, but make sure to give your graduation quotes the credit they deserve. Happy graduation season!

By Jess Lohr

Jess is a Cambridge-based, Syracuse-born twenty-something who loves coffee, dogs and stalking Zillow for her future home. Her favorite ways to kill time include strolling through Boston’s cobblestone streets, socializing over a glass of wine, and reading finance books (if only 22-year-old Jess were like this).

She has spent the past 4+ years working in Consumer Insights, and when she’s not working on her 9-5, you can find her pursuing her most recent side hustle as a dog sitter. Jess is co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast and lifestyle website with the mission of helping post-grads navigate adulthood.

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