Worried that the person writing your letter of receommendation might inadvertently do you wrong? Then take control and help him/her do right. Evan Forster tells you how.

There's nothing worse than having to write a recommendation. NOTHING. I speak from experience when I say that it absolutely sucks.

Here's the deal: If you want a really great recommendation, help your recommender help you. First, let's dispel the myth that you can't read your recs. When you go into the application to submit the names and email addresses of your recommenders, you are asked if you "waive your right to see the recommendation." Waiving your right is commonly misunderstood to mean that it is illegal or unethical for you to read your recommendation before it is submitted. This is not true. Waiving your right does not mean that you have never read the recommendation. What is means is that, should you be admitted to the school and therefore have the ability to look at your application file, you agree to let the recommendations remain sealed. This is supposed to make your recommender feel free to be completely honest with the committee.

With that out of the way, let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with helping your recommender as he or she prepared to write your recommendation. No one expects him or her to recall all of your great moments in history. So how do you help him or her? You provide your recommender with examples (bullet point format is great) of your growth, accomplishments, and moments of leadership. This will aid them in painting a fuller picture of you and giving insight into your candidacy otherwise not expressed anywhere else in your application.

So, in the case of college recommendations, make a list of great papers you've written, growth you had in grasping difficult material, large improvements in test scores, or an extracurricular activity for which that teacher was the advisor. For general graduate and law school admissions, do the same. In the case of an MBA, your recommender will have very specific questions to answer regarding the how, what, where, when, and why of you, and it would be really smart if you went thought the questions and gave possible talking points to your recommender. But whether its college, graduate, or business school, the overarching point is--one ultimate thing has to happen: specific examples! I cannot stress this enough: particularly examples of leadership!

So, if you launched a new chess club in your high school or led a volunteer day at Barclays Capital for elementary school students in Chicago's South Side, provide that in a list of examples to your recommender.

The last important thing to ask of every recommender, whether for college or graduate school, is to review his or her response to questions about a weakness that you had to deal with or overcome. You want to be careful that your recommendation is not a giant commercial. You're not Prince Charming, you're not Nelson Mandela, you're not the new iPhone. In the absence of some kind of weakness or criticism, your rec reads like a 30-second commercial and ultimately has less credibility. Remember, weaknesses are opportunities for growth, not candidacy killers.

The only topics to skirt completely are: bad leadership skills, shyness, bad verbal communication skills, fear of confrontation.