To present an undeniable application package, show the program that you are currently participating in the very activities in which they expect their current students to be involved. Aiming for a PhD program, highlight any research that you may have conducted in a masters program. Make mention of the refereed journal articles you have read and how those articles have influenced the way your approach your research or even altered/reinforced your research interests.
Otherwise, you can take the approach I did: get relevant recommendations from royalty. Three high ranking administrators/professors from my undergraduate/masters institution (I got both my BS and MEd from the same university) wrote the recommendation letters for my PhD program. To reflect my academic prowess and scholastic accomplishments, I had the director of the Honors Program, with whom I both taught and taken classes, write my first recommendation. Because I was applying for a PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs, I got my second recommendation letter from the president of the university. As an added bonus, he also happened to be an alum of the institution to which I was applying. Finally, as mentioned earlier the program has Student Affairs in its name, so I had the Vice President of Student Affairs write my final recommendation letter.
It is kind of difficult to deny someone admission to a Higher Education program who has recommendations from the King (president), Prince (vice president), and Dutchess (Honors Program director) of a kingdom (research university). In which case, I suggest finding the heavy hitters in your field, and ask them to write your recommendation letters. Of course, this works best when you first have a relationship with these scholastic celebrities. Understand that they may not necessarily be the leading researchers in your chosen field, but getting a recommendation from the highest ranking professors on your campus still speaks volumes about your potential. It means someone who actually has a lot to lose feels confident enough in your abilities to put their good reputations and credibility on the line.
Not much time is left before graduate school applications are due, ask a member of your academic field’s royalty for a recommendation today.