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When applying to graduate school, it's important to leave nothing to chance. Depending on the school, competition can be tough. It is imperative that you show your best in each part of your application, and letters of recommendation are no different. Many students send requests for letters of recommendation assuming that they have very little control over the finished product, just hoping for the best. In actuality, assuming you have chosen well when asking for letters of recommendation, there is much that you can include with your request to help ensure you get a letter that sets you apart in the application process.

Resume and employment history

There are many difference sources where you can request a letter of recommendation. Students often use professors from their college career, current or former employers, supervisors and managers, or community leaders if the student has participated in any volunteer community service activities. Regardless of who is writing the letter, including a resume and employment history will help the writer of the letter gain some context and get a more complete view of the student's employment accomplishments and skills gained.

School accomplishments and information

Even if the person writing your recommendation letter is a current or former professor, it's a good idea to create some sort of document outlining your academic career. Information to include would be your GPA, clubs, or extra-curricular activities that you participate or participated in, and any other notable accomplishments and awards. If your recommendation is coming from a professor from earlier in your college career, then it is a good idea to include a copy of a paper or project you completed for the class to remind the professor of your work.

Information on the school(s) receiving the application

Make sure that the writer of the letter knows all of the schools that you will be applying for and information on the graduate program you are planning to enter. The more the person recommending you understands your goals, the easier it will be to write a letter that is relevant to your plans. Include your Personal Statement that you developed for your application. This is important as well because your school may require that the recommendation letter be sent directly to the school, rather than through you first. Some schools may require that the letter be unopened and the envelope sent with your application.

It's okay to give instructions

When requesting a letter of recommendation, don't leave the writer wondering how to go about the process. It's important not to assume that the writer knows what is needed. Often your prospective school will have guidelines online or with your application materials that reflect how the letter should be formatted, what type of information the school will be looking for, and where the letter should be mailed. It's a good idea to include a cover sheet with your request for recommendation that lists these content, formatting, and handling requirements. It will help the person writing the recommendation stay organized and it will eventually help you. It's also a good idea to request that the recommender send you a copy of what he or she sent the school. This way you know what is sent. If you are not sure if you will be applying for more schools in the future, it is a good idea to ask if the writer would be willing to modify their letter in the future to be sent to another school.