Taylor Swift’s NYU Speech – What She Said to the Class of 2022

Taylor Swift is a record-breaking, award-winning musician and songwriter, an actress and an activist (and did we mention cat enthusiast?)

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

But it looks like the ’22’ singer just added another impressive title to her list — Doctor of Fine Arts!

Dr. Taylor Swift was given an honorary degree on May 18 as part of New York University’s 2022 commencement ceremony alongside fellow honorees Susan Hockfield (neuroscientist and former Massachusetts Institute of Technology president) and Félix Matos Rodríguez (City University of New York chancellor.)

The commencement, which took place at Yankee Stadium, generated quite a buzz as many looked forward to hearing what Taylor Swift’s advice to the class of 2022 would be — she is a lyricist, after all.

Swift offered sound advice on all the things post-grad life would offer: heartbreak, finding oneself, career paths, decision-making, love, family.

She also offered sound advice on what she’s learned through a career in the public eye and how her fellow graduates (and anyone listening) could apply the lessons she learned to their own careers.

Did Taylor Swift go to college?

Swift cleared up in her speech that she did not attend or graduate from an accredited college or university — in fact, she didn’t even finish high school in the traditional manner.

She initially raised questions when she posted an Instagram on Wednesday morning to her 210 million followers with a caption that revealed that she was “wearing a cap and gown for the very first time.”


Swift attended Hendersonville High School in Tennessee for two years before transferring to Aaron Academy, where she graduated a year early while on the road.

“I went to public high school until 10th grade and finished my education doing homeschool work on the floors of airport terminals. Then I went out on the road on a radio tour, which sounds incredibly glamorous but in reality it consisted of a rental car, motels, and my mom and I pretending to have loud mother-daughter fights with each other during boarding so no one would want the empty seat between us on Southwest,” Swift joked to the crowd.

She then lamented not having the typical college experience, imagining what it would be like to decorate her dorm room with posters and all the things a younger Taylor would’ve loved. But she pointed out that the class of 2022 also didn’t have a typical college experience, as their four-year experience was dramatically affected by the pandemic. This was a lesson that Swift maintains both she and her fellow graduates learned in different ways.

“You and I both learned that you don’t always get all the things in the bag that you selected from the menu in the delivery service that is life,” she said. “You get what you get. And as I would like to say to you, you should be very proud of what you’ve done with it.”

What was Taylor Swift’s advice to the class of 2022?

It wouldn’t be a Taylor Swift original work of art unless it was filled with life lessons, quirky anecdotes and some big-sister-like life advice.

Swift said in lieu of giving direct advice, she would offer up a few “life hacks” that she wished she knew before beginning her career and all of the personal life milestones that happened while on that journey.

One of these was knowing that throughout life, when change is imminent, there will be things we have to let go and things we carry with us through different stages, jobs and relationships.

“Life can be heavy, especially if you try to carry it all at once,” Swift said. “Part of growing up and moving into new chapters of your life is about catch and release. What I mean by that is, knowing what things to keep, and what things to release. You can’t carry all things, all grudges, all updates on your ex, all enviable promotions your school bully got at the hedge fund his uncle started. Decide what is yours to hold, and let the rest go. Oftentimes, the good things in your life are lighter anyway. So there’s more room for them … be discerning.”

Swift then went on to talk about having a strong work ethic and how at the end of the day, those who make the most effort are the ones who find the most success.

“Never be ashamed of trying. Effortlessness is a myth,” she told the stadium. “The people who wanted it the least were the ones I wanted to date and be friends with in high school. The people who want it most are the people I now hire to work for my company.”

Swift then segued into talking about her own career and how being scrutinized in the public eye helped form the best parts of her careers so far.

“As a person who started my very public career at the age of 15, it came with a price. And that price was years of unsolicited advice. Being the youngest person in every room for over a decade meant that I was constantly being issued warnings from older members of the music industry, the media, interviewers, executives. This advice often presented itself as thinly veiled warnings,” she admitted.It was all centered around the idea that mistakes equal failure and, ultimately, the loss of any chance at a happy or rewarding life. This has not been my experience. My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life. And being embarrassed when you mess up, it’s part of the human experience. Getting back up, dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it? That’s a gift.”

She urged the class of 2022 to let go of perfectionism and to embrace the difficulties along the way, in a truly Swift optimistic fashion.

NYU also ran commencement exercises for the classes of 2020 and 2021 as their original ceremonies were postponed due to the pandemic.