McCreery, 18, graduated from North Carolina's Garner Magnet High School Thursday, walking across the stage with his 400 or so classmates in Raleigh, N.C., to collect his diploma.
The singer had flown in from Nashville to attend the ceremony, after taking home the trophy for breakthrough video of the year at the CMT Awards the night before.
"The year has gone so fast," McCreery told PEOPLE on the red carpet before the awards show. "I'm glad it worked out that I could do both [school and music]. It was important to me and my family. Graduation is a big milestone, and it's going to be a little bittersweet."
"It was a good four years for me in high school," he says.
McCreery, who plans to attend college at North Carolina State in the fall, told PEOPLE that his dedication to his studies paid off. He graduated with distinguished honors and said he believed he was in the top 50 in his class academically.
"I tried to keep in the books while I was on the road," he said. "There's a lot of down time, hurry up and wait time, and I tried to put it to good use. I know my family will be proud.”