The 10 Most Stereotypical Graduation Songs

by Staff Writers

As cool as high school seniors think they are, graduation season is the perfect excuse for waxing nostalgia on days that haven't even ended yet. From the pop kids to the hipsters to the band geeks, stereotypical songs aren't just allowed, they're celebrated and played on repeat all month long. Here are 10 that'll make you burst with pride and make you weep as you hang up your cap and gown in anticipation of graduation day.

  1. Pomp and Circumstance: We'd be surprised if any high school — or college — graduate in the United States didn't march into the auditorium or onto the field to this song, either blasted by a two-bit stereo system or played by the school band. Composed by Sir Edward Elgar but named for a verse in Othello, March No. 1 in D minor is the typically American version. "The Graduation March" is the Trio section of the song, originally called "Land of Hope and Glory," first played at a graduation at Yale in 1905, the year Elgar received an honorary Doctorate of Music from that school.
  2. "It's the End of the World as We Know It:" R.E.M'.s "It's the End of the World As We Know It" is both a rational nod to moving on to college (or whatever comes after high school) and also a raucous ballad for teens who are still convinced their world can't get any better than their high school friends have made it. Released on R.E.M.'s 1987 album Document, the song has been used to comment on various pop culture moments, including the final outcome of the 2004 presidential election.
  3. "Time of Your Life:" While the official name of the song is "Good Riddance," this Green Day classic is a melancholy ode to leaving friends and classmates behind as time marches on and life becomes more and more "unpredictable."
  4. "Here's to the Night:" Eve 6's 2000 single "Here's to the Night" is the ultimate graduation night and prom night song, giving high schoolers the perfect Carpe Diem courage for last-chance hook-ups, toasts and reconciliations. With an opener like "So denied so I lied are you the now or never kind//In a day and a day love I'm gonna be gone for good again/Are you willing to be had are you cool with just tonight/Here's a toast to all those who hear me all too well," how can you not raise a Solo cup to your awesome 6th period art history class?
  5. "I'll Be There For You:" For any former teen who grew up during the Friends era, The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You" probably inspired photo and video montages of their own best friends moments, played at Sweet 16s, sports banquets, and of course, graduation parties. It's the ultimate "we may be going our different ways, but I'll always love you" song that's so irresistible around graduation time.
  6. "We are the Champions:" Graduating high school seniors are on top of the world — and they know it. They love it. Which is why Queen's "We are the Champions" is the perfect ego booster for an already high group of teenagers just waiting for another excuse to celebrate how awesome they've been for the past four years — and how much cooler they're going to get during the next phase of their lives.
  7. "The Graduation Song:" Pop group Vitamin C came out with this song the year that the class of 2000 graduated high school. Local radio stations invited groups of seniors into their studios to record their favorite high school memories and interjected them into the song — cheesy but brilliant for building an instant fan base. Even the video for the song is all about high school — football players "winning" during practice, paper airplane flights in class, and cheerleaders toe-touching in the hallways. The most bubble-gum pick on our list, "The Graduation Song" is admittedly kind of cute.
  8. "School's Out:" If you're into something a little harder, Alice Cooper's "School's Out" single from 1972 is a good choice, though its lyrics are still pretty tame: the "school's been blown to pieces," but kids sing "No more pencils/No more books/No more teacher's dirty looks." A perfect anthem for graduates skipping college for other work, travel or military pursuits, especially.
  9. "Graduation Day:" The Beach Boys recorded this song in 1964, and it was played at numerous graduations and ceremonies in the decades after. "At the senior prom/We danced till three/and there you gave your heart to me" are sugary lyrics for today's seniors, but it was clearly a favorite back in the day — just listen to those screams as the song wraps on YouTube.
  10. "Time of My Life:" Memorizing Dirty Dancing should still be a rite of passage for preteen girls everywhere, if only to culminate in a high school prom or graduation party dance-off (and sing-along) to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes's "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." It's got a light romantic connotation, but "I've had the time of my life/No I never felt this way before/Yes I swear, it's the truth/And I owe it all to you" is also a sweet expression of thanks to teachers, parents, friends and mentors. This song even got those two old ladies dancing at the end.