I am an undergraduate student in mathematics. My academic performance is really good but many people tell me "you are too stressed up", including people who know me for a few weeks.

Due to some serious family issues the last few years have been hell.

As the time passes everything is returning to normal but the professors who don't know about those events might think this is how my personality is.

I am going to ask letters of recommendation from those professors for a graduate school application. Do you think this will negatively impact my application? What I can do about it?

edit: It's just the air around me. Some professors mentioned this: "You are too tense, don't worry you will go alright". Not sure how to explain this better.

  • I don't think there's enough information here to get a reasonable answer. Maybe if you told us some specific incidents that came about due to your stress, or some specific behaviors your letter writers might be worried about. More importantly, have you tried talking to your letter writers about this?
    – Jeff
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 21:12
  • There's an outline of a question here. It would be better if it were fleshed out, but it is complete enough for me to provide an answer.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 21:14
  • 1
    As long as you are professional in what you do and not offending/shouting at people, it is your business only (and that of your family/close friends/doctor) how stressed you are. But it sounds like they may be more worried than negatively oriented towards you - you may want to clarify. Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 22:41
  • It sounds as if they honestly only want you not to worry, but you are taking this somehow as a criticism. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 8:51

2 Answers 2


"Stressed out" could hurt you insofar as people who would give you otherwise positive recommendations might be tempted to tone them down.

When asking for letters of recommendation, discuss these issues candidly with the prospective recommenders. Some might not care. Others might "care" but they might also be open to a discussion of extenuating circumstances. A few will have their opinions shaped by your behavior. If and when you identify such a person, you might want to withdraw your request for a recommendation from them.


When you ask a professor for a letter of recommendation, ask him or her: "Do you think my recent high level of stress will make it more difficult for you to be a reference for me?"

If you get any solid yeses, then I would recommend that you see a doctor to get some documentation about your mental health situation. Take the documentation to the student disability office at your university. They will work with your professors to help them see past the symptoms.

That last paragraph is totally hypothetical! If there are no symptoms, or if the professors have not noticed any, then you can ignore that whole paragraph.

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