The 55 best graduation quotes to inspire you at any time in life

You’ve done it, you’ve graduated. Whether you recall your preschool, high school, undergraduate or graduate level graduation, it’s likely that you’ve either seen or personally gone through the experience: hearing graduation quotes and speeches from notable speakers and classmates, wearing a cap and gown, taking in the bittersweet moments of a chapter closed and the final transcendent moment of cascading across a stage, in front of classmates, family, and friends to acknowledge and celebrate both the end and start of a journey.

The words you hear at graduation are typically meant to offer wisdom, remembrance of your experience and knowledge to hold with you, not only at that moment but in your career and life to come. And they are often applicable for years.

We’ve gathered some of the best, 50 most-remembered graduation quotes to inspire you — no matter where you are in your career or personal journey — here, plus five from 2020 virtual graduation speeches.

Graduation quotes about success

1. “Just remember, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

2. “To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe.” – Anatole France

3. “Now the first suggestion is to aim high, but be aware that even before you have reached your ultimate professional destination, if you always strive for excellence, you can and should have a substantial impact on the world in which you live.” – Sandra Day O’Connor

4. “Success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it… Err in the direction of kindness.” – George Saunders

5. “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

6. “When you take risks, you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” – Ellen DeGeneres

Graduation quotes about failure

7. “You will have failures in your life, but it is what you do during those valleys that will determine the heights of your peaks.” – Rahm Emanuel

8. “Nobody else is paying as much attention to your failures as you are… To everyone else, it’s just a blip on the radar screen, so just move on.” – Jerry Zucker

9. “Real courage is holding on to a still voice in your head that says, ‘I must keep going.’ It’s that voice that says nothing is a failure if it is not final. That voice that says to you, ‘Get out of bed. Keep going. I will not quit.’” – Cory Booker

10. “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” – Jim Carrey

11. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K. Rowling

Graduation quotes about challenges

12. “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

13. “The only thing you can do in this life is to pursue your passions, celebrate your bloopers and never stop following your fear.” – Grace Helbig

Graduation quotes about trusting yourself

14. “For the most important decisions in your life, trust your intuition, and then work with everything you have, to prove it right.” – Tim Cook

15. “The most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and to not give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not.” – Ellen DeGeneres

16. “The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules.” – Neil Gaiman

17. “You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.” – Alan Alda

18. “As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own.” – Michael Dell

19. “The person who you’re with most in life is yourself and if you don’t like yourself you’re always with somebody you don’t like.” – Mark Lewis

20. “So, I say to you, 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

21. “If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Graduation quotes about change

22. “This is your time and it feels normal to you but really there is no normal. There’s only change, and resistance to it and then more change.” – Meryl Streep

23. “Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course… We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night, and we watch television.” – Paul Hawken

24. “Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.” – Senator Orrin Hatch

25. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis

26. “The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse.” – Edward Koch

27. “When you leave here, don’t forget why you came.” – Adlai E. Stevenson

Graduation quotes about life

28. “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

29. “Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.” – Kerry Washington

30. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

31. “There are no regrets in life. Just lessons.” – Jennifer Aniston

32. “Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” – Michael Josephson

33. “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein

34. “Don’t always worry what your next line is going to be.” – Richard Costolo

35. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

36. “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

37. “You have to dance a little bit before you step out into the world each day because it changes the way you walk.” – Sandra Bullock

38. “It doesn’t matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping.” – Jerry Zucker

Motivational graduation quotes

39. “Kid, you’ll move mountains.” – Dr. Seuss

40. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

41. “Every person you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.” – H Jackson Brown Jr.

42. “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

43. “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” – Thomas Jefferson

44. “And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.” – Neil Gaiman

45. “When people tell you not to believe in your dreams, and they say “Why?”, say “Why not?” – Billie Jean King

46. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

47.“In response to those who say to stop dreaming and face reality, I say keep dreaming and make a reality.” – Kristian Kan

48. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

Graduation quotes about hard work

49. “All that stands between the graduate and the top of the ladder is the ladder.” – Author Unknown

50. “The most rewarding things in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.” – Arnold Palmer

Graduation quotes from 2020 commencement speeches

51. “As scary and uncertain as these times may be, they are also a wake up call, and they are an incredible opportunity for your generation, because you don’t have to accept what was considered normal before. You don’t have to accept the world as it is. You can make it into the world as it should be, and could be. You can create a new normal. One that is fairer and gives everybody opportunity, and treats everybody equally, and builds bridges between people instead of dividing them.” – President Obama

52. “To all those who feel different, if you are part of a group that’s called ‘other’, a group that does not get the chance to be center stage…build your own stage and make them see you.” –  Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

53. “Expect the unexpected, but celebrate anyway.” – Taylor Swift

54. “Although there is much to be sad about, there is also much to be celebrated. You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country’s evolution.” – Lady Gaga

55. “Promise yourself today that you will savor and make the best of every moment of what lies ahead. Embracing challenge, living humbly, and dedicating your talents to a higher human purpose.” – Condoleezza Rice