There's some good advice on The Choice blog today courtesy of Martha Merrill, Dean of Admissions at Connecticut College, concerning teacher recommendations and how they are used during the admissions process.
Seniors (and their parents) should pay particular attention to this tip:
Follow instructions. Admission officers will likely read only the required number of recommendations. If you submit too many, you leave it to chance which ones will be read."
A lot of seniors are under the impression that the more information they can share with a college, the better. So if a college asks for two letters of recommendation from academic sources, but your dad's business partner and your youth pastor have both offered to write recs for you, it's hard to resist just tacking on those additional two letters. Four people saying nice things about you might seem better than two.
But we always discourage our Collegewise students from submitting additional letters of recommendation unless the college invites you to do it. A student who doesn't follow directions, who assumes that he or she deserves the right to submit additional materials while other applicants are following directions, just runs the risk that you'll annoy the admissions officer.
But Merrill makes an even better case. If you submit additional recs, not only will the college likely not read all of them, but you won't get to decide which ones they read. Why not maintain as much control over the process as you can? Follow directions, choose your letter-writers carefully, and be confident that you're being represented as you want to be.