The latest results from the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) found that high school guidance counselors' letters of recommendation were rated as having "considerable importance" by 16% of colleges and of "moderate importance" by 44 % . Teacher recommendations produced similar numbers. What this means is that a recommendation can tilt the decision one way or the other in the admissions process.
Many students present with similar GPA's and standardized test scores. Letters of recommendation can set students apart. A strong letter, written by a counselor or teacher that knows the student may well make a difference in the admissions outcome. The bottom line is that students must make smart choices about whom they ask to write their letters of recommendation and to make sure that the recommender knows them (e.g., students should participate and volunteer in the classroom, discuss their college plans with their teachers and guidance counselor, and let them know about their individual strengths and aspirations).
In the fall of 2015, the University of California at Berkeley began asking a certain percentage of freshman applicants for letters of recommendation – an indication of the university’s need to further compare and differentiate students. The power of the letters was evident in that 1 out of 3 students who submitted the letters were offered admission in comparison to those students from whom letters were not requested - their odds of admission turned out to be 1 out of 6. Many colleges will also offer students the chance to send in several additional letters of recommendation, not only from guidance counselors and teachers. Students should take advantage of this opportunity and choose recommenders wisely.