50+ Inspiring Quotes About Graduation for 2021 Grads

Updated

High school and college seniors often face graduation with a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and trepidation. Their parents may share those complicated emotions as well. Regardless of how the graduates feel, it is common to celebrate this milestone with parties and gifts and even sharing a short quote about graduation.

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Here are some uplifting, inspiring, and encouraging quotes. Add them above your signature in graduation cards, use them as decorations, or write them in yearbooks. Reassure those scared seniors that they are ready for life on the other side of formal education.

Quotes for High School Graduation

Eighteen-year-olds are often excited to get the heck out of Dodge. They are ready for freedom, adventure, and life without their parents. At the same time, many older teens crave the comfort of being taken care of at home. These conflicting emotions can understandably cause quite a bit of angst. 

Here are some quotes to reassure those seniors. These quotes can also be used to teach seniors about some of the keys to a happy life. Share them on social media, or use them as filler when creating a memory board as a graduation party decoration.  

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

Remind the graduate that character is a critical factor in succeeding in life. Having a good attitude may not give you riches, but it will provide you with peace of mind.

2. “What’s popular isn’t always right, and what’s right isn’t always popular!” Unknown

You probably have said this until you are blue in the face if you are a graduate’s parent. Remind your child who is going to college to focus on what is right instead of acting as everyone else does.

3. “A person can succeed at anything for which there is enthusiasm.” Charles M. Schwab

Enthusiasm is one of the keys to having a happy life. Apparently, Charles M. Schwab must have been very enthusiastic about money to have achieved the success that he enjoyed.

4. “What the human mind can conceive and believe, it can accomplish.” David Sarnoff

This quote may only be partially right. No one has found an easy way to fold a fitted sheet. Perhaps this generation will accomplish that dream.

5. Triumph is just an “ump” ahead of “try.” Unknown

Tell your graduate that success comes after taking chances and trying hard. 

Quotes for College Graduation

College graduates may also face their futures with trepidation and worry. After all, many of them have student loans to pay off and no income in which to do it. Here are some quotes that offer advice and encouragement for those getting started in the working world.

6. “Hitch your wagon to a star.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you know anything about Ralph Waldo Emerson, you know that he was not encouraging people to rub shoulders with the Hollywood elite. The “star” Emerson wrote about was a person’s hopes and dreams.

7. “There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” Charles F. Kettering

Our great-great-grandparents would not have been able to fathom how we live today. It’s exciting to think about what the current generation will invent to improve the world.

8. “Enthusiasm reflects confidence, spreads good cheer, raises morale, inspires associates, arouses loyalty, and laughs at adversity. It is beyond price.” Allan Cox

Share this idea with the college graduate, and you will be sharing the secret to a happy and productive life.

9. “Energy and perseverance can fit a man for almost any kind of position.” Theodore F. Merseles

College graduates may face the job market with trepidation. They may wonder if their education really prepared them for the real world. Remind the young person to face new tasks with enthusiastic optimism, and they will be able to achieve anything.

10. “When I was a young man, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. I didn’t want to be a failure, so I did ten times more work.” George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion, which later inspired the creation of the musical My Fair Lady

Short Quotes for a Graduation Cap

Before you bling your cap, make sure your high school or college allows the practice. If permitted, you may use the space to thank your parents for their love and support. Here are some quotes to consider. 

11. “It may be those who do most, dream most.” -- Stephen Leacock

Tell others at graduation that you have ambition and big dreams for your life. 

12. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon

Life is full of possibilities. It’s exciting to face a new adventure after completing a milestone in your life. 

13. “Little by little, one travels far.” J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was the author of the Lord of the Ring series. He wrote many amazing lines about life, travel, and adventure. 

14. “There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” J.R.R. Tolkien

The fight for good can be done in many ways. You can do it by being an excellent example to others. You can do it with carefully chosen words. 

15. “Mischief managed.” J.K. Rowling

Fans of Harry Potter will recognize this line from the book and the movies. This is a cute way to say goodbye to high school or college if the graduate participated in a few adventures along the way.

Funny Graduation Quotes

The quote you pick for a college graduate doesn’t have to sound like a Greek philosopher wrote it. Here are some pieces of advice written by people with a knack for words.

16. “An optimist is someone who goes after Moby Dick in a rowboat and takes the tartar sauce with him.” Zig Ziglar

Encourage the graduate you know to have a positive mental attitude in life. 

17. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

It may be cruel to share this wisdom with a college senior who spent thousands of dollars to earn a diploma. But if Albert Einstein said it, it must be true.

18. “Enthusiasm, like measles, mumps, and the common cold, is highly contagious.” Benjamin Disraeli

The word “contagious” may have a bad rap, but not everything that is contagious is terrible.

19. “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” Robert Frost

Congratulations! You made it through high school! It’s harder to get through it then one could imagine. 

20. “Life is now in session. Are you present?” B. Copeland

One of the keys to academic success is simply being present. Perhaps we could say the same about life. Are you present in your life or always on your phone or watching Netflix?

Uplifting or Hopeful Graduation Quotes

Make sure your quote has positive energy, similar to what you would write in a time capsule letter

21. “Attitudes are much more important than aptitudes.” Unknown

Maybe your graduate wasn’t a member of the National Honor Society and received an average SAT score. Remind the young person that their attitude is more important than test scores and memberships in honor organizations. 

22. “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” Aldous Huxley

Remind the person who is on the brink of adulthood to keep the spirit of a child.

23. “It’s not where you are today that counts. It’s where you are headed.” Arthur F. Lenehan

Even if the graduate had a less than stellar academic career, he or she could still achieve great things. 

24. “The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them.” Proverbs 18:15

Graduates must know that their education will continue through life, but only if they are open to learning and growing.

25. “I am an optimist. It does not seem to much use being anything else.” Winston Churchill

Leave it to Winston Churchill to describe the secret of life in such simplistic terms. 

Dr. Seuss Graduation Quotes

Not all of Dr. Seuss’s books are known for offering pithy quotes about life. For example, you won’t find words of wisdom in “Fox in Socks” unless “Socks on Knox and Knox in box” has a hidden meaning. Thankfully, the author wrote other children’s books (that are easier to read out loud) that offer lovely messages.

26. “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting . . . so get on your way!”

Those who think Seuss’s work is nothing but fluff should re-read Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It offers a great message to people in every stage of life (but especially graduates).

27. “Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

This, again, is another quote from Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

28. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

Dr. Seuss is a pen name for Theodor Seuss Geisel. Geisel died in 1991.

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

Graduations are sometimes tearful events. Share this quote with a graduate who isn’t ready to leave high school or college. 

30. “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.”

That’s good advice for anyone—if we could all just put down our phones, we would have the opportunity to think and wonder.

31. “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

This quote isn’t from the often-quoted Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Instead, you can find this thoughtful line from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

Short Quotes for a Graduation Cap

Some high schools and colleges allow their graduates to decorate their mortarboards at graduation. Here are a few more short phrases to use if cap decoration is allowed. 

32. “Swing for the fences.” —H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

This quote is found in Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. Encourage those graduating around you to “give it their all” as they enter this new phase in life. 

33. “TPWK” —Harry Styles

Undoubtedly, those in your high school or college graduation class will know what “TPWK” means. However, for those who aren’t aged 12-25, “TPWK” stands for “Treat People With Kindness.” 

34. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” —Richard Carlson, Ph.D.

Yes, this is a book title, and yes, it would make a great short quote for a graduation cap. Some graduation speeches are about how to achieve great things and the importance of working hard. This quote would lend a little balance to those messages.

35. “The best is yet to come.” —Carolyn Leigh

Although this phrase appears in many different places, it is the title of a song made famous by Frank Sinatra. This quote reminds fellow graduates that life doesn’t have to peak in high school.

36. “Adventure is out there.”

This phrase can be found in Disney’s Up, among other places. For those who don’t know the reference, we encourage you to watch the movie. But, we highly recommend that you have a box of tissues nearby. 

Graduation Quotes From Parents

Graduation ceremonies bring out a wide variety of emotions: happiness, sadness, excitement, and . . . relief! These emotions ring true for both the graduates and their parents. 

Here are some graduation quotes that cover a wide variety of emotional states. 

37. “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” African Proverb

Some parents of graduates feel thankful on graduation day for all of the people who played an essential role in their child’s life. Their child’s village may have included teachers, school staff, bus drivers, coaches, youth ministers, neighbors, scout leaders, and friends.

38. “Go forth and set the world on fire.” —St. Ignatius of Loyola

Show your graduate that you are excited about their new phase of life. 

39. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” —Robert Munsch

You may recognize these words as being from the best-selling children’s book, Love You Forever. If you view your graduate as your baby or chubby-cheeked toddler, you’ll connect with this quote.

40. “When they hand you your diploma, keep moving. Just in case they try to take it back.” —Unknown

Are you and your graduate relieved that this day has finally come? Then add a little levity to the situation by sharing this quote with your son or daughter. 

41. “Dance like nobody’s watching, because they are not, they are all checking their phones.” —Unknown

We love this bit of advice from an unknown source. Use the quote to remind your graduate that life is too short to worry about what others think about you.

Graduation Quotes for a Niece or Nephew

If you are the aunt or uncle of the graduate, you may want to offer a bit of life advice as they go out into the world. So here are some quotes to share with your niece or nephew.

42. “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” —Isaac Asimov

Remind your niece and nephew that you are still the smart one in the family, regardless of if they just graduated from high school or college.

43. “Congratulations on getting through the easiest part of life.” —Unknown

Maybe this isn’t the warm, fuzzy quote you were looking for, but it’s funny.

44. “The future is always uncertain, but we who celebrate what you have done, who celebrate all of your achievements, we are certain of one thing on this day: You will not let us down.” —Tom Hanks

Are you confident that your niece or nephew will make positive changes in the world? Then here’s a nice quote to share with the graduate in your family.

45. “Keep your face toward the sunshine and shadows will always fall behind you.” —Walt Whitman

We know that this advice about staying positive is easier said than done, but it is a good reminder about how we should live.

46. “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

In other words, tell your family member who just graduated to use their knowledge for good instead of evil.

Religious Graduation Quotes

If your faith is important to you, share it with the graduate. Here are some religious graduation quotes that will remind the young person that there’s more to life than school.

47. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

This quote is from the text of a letter Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles. 

48. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3

No matter what the graduate plans to do for a career, this is good advice to share.

49. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

This is one of our favorite quotes from the Old Testament. 

50. “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

The Bible is full of important messages for young people to hear, but this verse from 1 Timothy is an excellent reminder to adults. 

51. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37

Reassure your graduate that they can achieve their dreams with this quote from Luke. 

What Was the Best Advice You Ever Received?

As you read these inspiring, inspirational, and positive quotes, you may consider the best advice you have ever received. It may have been shared with you at your high school or college graduation. 

Was the advice about the importance of keeping a positive attitude? Perhaps it reminded you that you would need to work hard to achieve great things in life. Maybe it was a friendly reminder that the people you choose to surround yourself with will assist or hinder you in achieving your dreams.  

Take thought in the advice that you give to the graduate. Instead of merely writing “good luck” on the graduation card, share the best advice that you had ever received. Or tell the graduate some of what you have learned about life through the years.  

You never know how the power of your words could change a person’s life. 

If you're looking for more on what to do when a loved one graduates, read our guides on physical therapy (DPT) graduation gifts and medical school graduation gifts.

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