20 Amazing College Graduation Quotes

Written by Beth Hering
Published on July 6, 2023 · Updated on July 13, 2023

20 Amazing College Graduation Quotes

Written by Beth Hering
Published on July 6, 2023 · Updated on July 13, 2023

A commencement ceremony would not be complete without a speaker imparting words of wisdom to the graduating class. Whether you’re getting motivated for your final year of college or you’re officially a college grad, these quotes are sure to get you motivated for the next step in your adult life. Plus, you can pin ‘em, print ‘em, or post them to your phone background to add a little college grad beauty to your life. Here are 20 of our favorite college graduation quotes to inspire your future! 

1. “There will never be anything in your life as fulfilling as making a difference in somebody else’s.” – Oprah Winfrey, media mogul, commencement address at Tennessee State University 2023

2. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, commencement address at Stanford University 2005 

3. “Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.” – J.K. Rowling, author, commencement address at Harvard University 2008

4. “The true measure of your success will not be how well you do when you’re healthy and happy and everything is going according to plan, but what you do when life knocks you to the ground and all your plans go right out the window.” – Michelle Obama, former First Lady, commencement address at Oregon State University 2012

5. “If you just shut off your soul from the world, life is way easier. It’s also way less colorful. It’s way less complicated, way less nourishing, and way less memorable.” – Patton Oswalt, comedian, commencement address at William & Mary University 2023

6. “Until we can acknowledge what we don’t know, we can’t possibly be asking the right questions. You don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room. Your aim should be to be the one asking for more information. The one audacious enough to say, ‘I don’t know.’” – Lester Holt, broadcast journalist, commencement address at Villanova University 2023

7. “Look up at the sky, the clouds, beyond the sun, the moon, the stars when you need to recharge your spirit. Let the gravity of Earth give you a warm hug. Look up and remember what inspires you, what you were doing this for, and why you cared in the first place.” – Mae Jemison, astronaut, commencement address at University of Delaware 2023

8. “Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.” – Will Ferrell, actor, commencement address at University of Southern California 2017

9. “You are not a slacker if you cut yourself some slack.” – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, commencement address at Northern Arizona University 2023

10. “My philosophy is very simple: When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, stand up! Say something! Speak up and speak out!” – John Lewis, civil rights icon, commencement address at Harvard University 2018

11. “You’re going to get where you’re meant to go one way or the other. You can’t write yourself out of your own destiny.” – Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of the Today show, commencement address at Georgetown University 2023

12. “Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others.” – Anna Quindlen, author, commencement address at Villanova University 2000

13. “Contrary to what TV sells us, fame is not a profession. Be careful not to confuse fame and status and money with actual things that actually matter -- like happiness and humanity and kindness." – Kal Penn, actor, commencement address at DePauw University 2014

14. “Give it everything you’ve got – whether it’s your time, your talent, your prayers, or your treasure. Because remember this: You’ll never see a U-haul behind a hearse. You can’t take it with you.” – Denzel Washington, actor, commencement address at University of Pennsylvania 2011

15. “We are each a patchwork quilt of those who have loved us, those who have believed in our futures, those who showed us empathy and kindness or told us the truth even when it wasn’t easy to hear.” – Taylor Swift, musician, commencement address at New York University 2022 

16. “Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.” – Chadwick Boseman, actor, commencement address at Howard University 2018

17. “Be a doer, not a dreamer.” – Shonda Rhimes, TV writer and producer, commencement address at Dartmouth College 2014

18. “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, comedian and television host, commencement address at Northwestern University 2011

19. “If you’ve got an idea that you genuinely think is good, don’t let some idiot talk you out of it. You can only do your best work if you’re doing what you want to do, and if you’re doing it in the way that you think it should be done.” – Stan Lee, comic book writer, commencement address at UCLA 2017

20. “If all it took to make your life great was hearing amazing advice, then everyone who watched TED Talks would be a millionaire.” – Mindy Kaling, writer and actress, commencement address at Dartmouth College 2018