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The 33 Best Graduation Songs to Celebrate Your Next Step

These are the tracks you and your class should consider blasting at your party.

It's graduation day! Chances are that you or your proud student will be marching across the stage while "Pomp and Circumstance" blares, but with all due respect to that graduation staple, which English composer Sir Edward Elgar wrote in the early 1900s, that song is a little, well, old. "Pomp and Circumstance" is a march, and while there is a time and a place for a march, the students of today need a song that slaps or bangs or goes.

If you're looking for other songs to blast as you celebrate getting your diploma (or advancing from elementary school to high school), read on for 33 tracks that are perfect for such an occasion. There are some kid-friendly songs about accomplishment and the future, big boastful hip-hop songs about having made it, some country music about the journey we all call life, songs that capture how bittersweet moving on can be, and upbeat jams that will make you want to throw your graduation cap high in the air. So Congrats to the Class of 2024—now let's hit play, turn up the volume, and get this graduation party started!

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Graduation Songs for Primary or Elementary School

"Try Everything" by Shakira

Kids might recognize this as being sung by Gazelle, not Shakira, as that was the character the Colombian singer voiced in the 2016 film Zootopia. It's an exuberant, upbeat tune that's perfect for grade schoolers as they advance to middle school, high school, and beyond. As Shakira/Gazelle sings, she encourages her listeners to be open to whatever comes next.

"With a Little Help From My Friends" by The Beatles

Despite—or, perhaps, because—they are one of the greatest bands of all time, the Beatles have a lot of music that is remarkably kid-friendly. "With a Little Help From My Friends," from their 1962 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, is a charming tune that celebrates how important friends are to making it through school.

"Happy" by Pharrell Williams

Minion-loving kids will be happy to hear Pharrell Williams' song "Happy"—as will just about anybody else who's listening in. The 2013 track is such a wonderfully simple song about a celebratory emotion, making it a fitting selection for any graduation party. You graduated! What's there not to be happy about?

"How Far I'll Go" by Auli'i Cravalho

Most Disney "I Want" songs—that is, the song where the protagonist sings about their hopes, dreams, and aspirations—would make for pretty good graduation songs. "How Far I'll Go," from Moana, is one of the best. Written, as all the songs on the 2016 movie were, by Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, it's a sweeping, big song, aptly sung by Auli'i Cravalho. (Who made her film debut at just age 16 in this movie!)

"Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake

Man, 2016 was a good year for songs from kids' movies, huh? Justin Timberlake sings the breakout song from the Trolls soundtrack, an upbeat, infectiously peppy song about feeling good. It's a natural fit for a graduation celebration.

"Go the Distance" by Roger Bart

The seven labors of Hercules are nothing compared to post-grad life, but you, like the title character in the Disney movie, have what it takes to "Go the Distance." The "I Want" song from the 1997 film, "Go the Distance" is a sweeping, soaring track that will have a class of elementary schoolers singing along. (Michael Bolton recorded a pop version of the song for the closing credits, should you want something with a little more zest.)

"We're All in This Together" by the High School Musical Cast

A song about an entire school coming together in celebration? Is there a more perfect song for an elementary or primary school graduation than this song from the High School Musical franchise?

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Upbeat Graduation Songs to Walk Out To

"Roar" by Katy Perry

The lead single from Katy Perry's 2013 album Prism is an empowering, affirming battlecry. It's a terrific choice for a graduation song because, having made it through the trials and tribulations of school, you're ready to unleash your full potential with what comes next. They're gonna hear you roar!

"Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield

Recently deployed as a hilarious and effective needle drop in the Sydney Sweeney rom-com Anyone But You, Natasha Bedingfield's 2004 song is overdue for this sort of resurgence. It's a sweeping, optimistic song about the future. What comes after graduation is, indeed, "unwritten."

"School's Out" by Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper said "School's Out" was an attempt to capture the feeling of one of the best parts of somebody's life—the minutes ticking down until school is over and summer vacation begins—into one song. "If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it's going to be so big," the rock star said, and he was right. There's no better time to blast "School's Out" than after graduation, when school is truly out forever. (Though, hopefully, not blown to pieces.)

"Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen

Making it through high school or college is a tremendous feeling. You're on top of the world, ready to take on whatever comes next. The iconic band Queen captured that vibe well in "Don't Stop Me Now," a cut from their 1978 album Jazz.

"Celebration" by Kool & The Gang

Is "Celebration," from Kool & The Gang's 1980 album Celebrate!, a little over-played and on-the-nose? Well, yes. Does that really matter? No! It's a classic for a reason and a fitting soundtrack to any celebration of good times. (Come on!) As a good time, graduation deserves to be celebrated.

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

Throw your fist in the air just like Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club when this iconic high school song from the 1985 movie plays at the graduation party. Brain, athlete, basket case, princess, criminal—doesn't matter what you are, because you made it through high school, learning a lot about yourself in the process. Don't forget the friends you made it through with.

"About Damn Time" by Lizzo

If you actually plan on having Lizzo's 2022 song "About Damn Time" play while walking across the stage, you might run into a little issue with a curse word being right there in the title. But, if your school is cool (or if this is just going to be on the graduation party playlist), it's a great choice. After four years of classes, homework, and tests, it is about damn time to graduate.

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Emotional Graduation Songs

"Graduation (Friends Forever)" by Vitamin C

There's a bittersweetness to Vitamin C's 1999 "Graduation (Friends Forever)," a song about how friends tend to drift apart after they graduate high school. That might not be exactly the vibe you and your friends might want for a graduation song, but the reality of the lyrics is emotional and poignant. It can serve as a subtle challenge, too. You and your buds actually will be friends forever.

"Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson

Graduation can stir up a complex blend of feelings. Maybe you're excited to leave school behind for whatever comes next, and that feeling that you can finally spread your wings and fly is what you want a graduation song to celebrate. Enter Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway," which was originally written by and intended for Avril Lavigne to sing until it was given to the American Idol winner.

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

Yes, at this point everybody knows that "Good Riddance" was originally written by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong to be a resentful, bitter breakup song. "I hope you have the time of your life" was originally intended to come across as sarcastic, but the 1997 track has since been interpreted to be just the opposite. It's sincere and earnest, making "Good Riddance" a staple for weddings and graduations. That's fine—graduation day is about you, not Billie Joe Armstrong's ex.

"I'll Always Remember You" by Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana

There are a lot of Miley Cyrus songs that could be good for a graduation party (did you come into high school like a "wrecking ball"?) but this song from the fourth season of the Hannah Montana TV series is perfectly apt. "I'll Always Remember You" is a wistful song about moving on to the next stage—parting, but not forgetting.

"My Future" by Billie Eilish

The lead single from Billie Eilish's sophomore album Happier Than Ever, "My Future" is a pensive ballad about the future—a topic that should be top of mind for many recent graduates. Though it starts out rather restrained, it eventually blossoms into something bigger, making even the very structure of the song thematically appropriate for a graduation song.

"I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan's 1995 song "I Will Remember You" is perhaps a little overly sentimental. You might even call it "a bit much." But, sometimes that's exactly what's called for in a song. It's an emotional soundtrack for friends as they graduate together and go on to whatever's next. Close friends might part ways after high school, but they won't forget about each other. Consider "I Will Remember You" a good graduation song for inseparable friends.

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Hip-Hop Songs About Graduation

"I'm Legit" by Nicki Minaj

Album art for Nicki Minaj Pink Friday, Roman Reloaded, The Re-Up
Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic

Graduating with honors is one of the many boasts that Nicki Minaj makes in her 2012 song "I'm Legit." Good for her. You don't even need to have graduated with honors yourself (congrats if you did, though) in order to be legit after making it through school.

"Graduation" by Benny Blanco and Juice WRLD

Producer Benny Blanco and rapper Juice WRLD's 2019 song is a hip-hop reimagining of Vitamin C's '90s bop of the same name. It's a little bit more upbeat than the original, and it also boasts a really, really good music video, full of stars  including Hailee Steinfeld, Olivia Munn, Justice Smith, and Kaitlyn Dever.

"Champion" by Kanye West

Album art for "Graduation" by Kanye West
Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella

Kanye West's recent heel turn aside, you could do a lot worse for a graduation party than by playing the entirety of Ye's third album, fittingly titled Graduation. But, if forced to pick just one song from the 2007 LP, "Champion," the second track, is a pretty good one. It's big and bold and upbeat and will make you, the recent grad, feel like the champion you are.

"Started From the Bottom" by Drake

What is freshman year but "the bottom?" Drake's lead single from his 2013 album Nothing Was the Same is a perfect song about being on top of the world. (Never mind that, if you're going on to college, you will be at the bottom again. That's cool—Drake will still sound good four years from now.)

"See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa (ft. Charlie Puth)

There's tragedy behind Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's song from the 2015 movie F7, as it's a touching tribute to actor Paul Walker, who died while the movie was still in production. But the sentiment behind it—that we will see the people who are important to us again, no matter what—is a very fitting one for graduation, especially as you and your friends might all be headed off to different colleges or careers. You'll see each other again.

"Victory Lap" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Crossing the stage to get a diploma is the culmination of years of hard work, but it's also a victory lap of sorts. You did it. Enjoy the praise—perhaps while listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' 2012 song "Victory Lap," a proud celebration of everything you've accomplished.

"I Made It (Cash Money Heroes)" by Kevin Rudolf

"Made It," the 2010 single from Kevin Rudolf and featuring verses from other Cash Money rappers Lil Wayne, Birdman, and Jay Sean, is another high-energy, very prideful song about having accomplished something. A diploma is just a fancy way of saying "you made it," so why not max out the volume blasting this at the party after you walk across the stage?

Best Country Songs About Graduation

"I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack

Lee Ann Womack's 2000 song "I Hope You Dance" (which she recorded with the county band Sons of the Desert) has a sort of wistfulness about it. The song, like many good graduation numbers, is about the passing of time, yet Womack implores the listener not to take anything for granted nor to "lose your sense of wonder." It's a song about embarking on a new path, finding joy in it, and appreciating the little moments, making "I Hope You Dance" a very relevant soundtrack for recent grads preparing for their next adventure. An adventure that will, hopefully, feature dancing.

"My Wish" by Rascal Flatts

The lyrics of this 2006 Rascal Flatts track will probably take the words out of the mouths of any graduate's loved ones. It's a sweeping, earnest song about wishing for the best as somebody special goes through life. Who doesn't, upon graduation, wish that "life becomes all that you want it to?"

"You Can Always Come Home" by Alan Jackson

Graduation rightfully tends to be thought of as the end of something and the start of a brand new chapter. Maybe you'll go off to college far away from where you grew up. Maybe you're staying in the area but setting out on your own, on your own terms, for the first real time. Whatever the case may be, those are things to celebrate, but as the great Alan Jackson sings, "you can always come home." His 2015 song is a welcome addition to any graduation playground because it's a nice reminder to have as you stand on the precipice of whatever adventure comes next.

"Never Grow Up" by Taylor Swift

If you're happy to put school in the rearview mirror, a not-especially country Taylor Swift track, "Shake It Off," might be a good pick for a graduation song. But, if you want to stick to the country genre and are feeling emotional about leaving it behind and growing up, her 2010 Speak Now cut "Never Grow Up" is a lovely tune for the occasion.

"Young" by Kenny Chesney

On his 2003 album No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, Kenny Chesney is a little further away from being young than a recent graduate who is blasting this song probably is. Perhaps Chesney's distance from that crazy, special time period only makes "Young" more powerful. He's looking back while graduates are looking forward, putting this song in a very powerful nexus. Also, and perhaps more importantly, it's a rollicking good time.

"Wide Open Spaces," by The Chicks

No matter how big your high school or college was, it's a tiny sliver of the world compared to what comes next. The Chicks' 1998 classic "Wide Open Spaces" is a great graduation song to that end, as it's all about a young girl who is ready to set out on her own, heading off to somewhere there's "room to make her big mistakes." Post-grad life is high stakes, and there's something exciting about that which the Chicks capture very well.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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