It’s that time of year when seniors across the country are preparing for graduation, hearing back from the colleges they’ve applied to and making plans for the future. Graduation may feel like an overwhelming rite of passage, but soon you’ll find yourself on the other side. In the meantime, there is one thing you can rely on: sappy graduation speeches. Though we can’t be there ourselves to watch you sashay across the stage, we hope you’ll take to heart these inspiring, and sometimes humorous, words of wisdom. Life can be confusing and uncertain, but here are the best attempts to explain everything.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

J.K. Rowling’s Harvard graduation speech about her fears from days as an aspiring novelist and single mother, with emphasis on the importance of imagination and failure.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, on how life, expectations and Chinese brush painting inspired his empire.

Ellen Degeneres, comedian, shares her experiences on living in the closet and musings on “common cement” with Tulane University in her hometown of New Orleans.

Davis Sedaris, to the Princeton graduating class of 2006, on embarrassing his parents to death.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s inspirational and stirring poem to Kean University’s graduating class of 2009.

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