To what experience do you refer? Are you actually privy to admissions committee proceedings? Are you an admissions officer? (I don't mean any of this sarcastically or cheekily, but rather sincerely. If you have direct admissions experience, do let us know.) Your statement presupposes that entomom lacks experience, and I don't know how you would know that...
In any event, I agree with you as it relates to freshman admissions (i.e. letters from high school teachers who often aren't in a position to judge academic viability in students). Letters from high school teachers are unlikely to have a significant impact on admissions. But even then, it's a package, and to neglect one part because it is of less importance is tactically unwise. In an increasingly competitive arena, students need every advantage they can get, which includes letters.
Again, I have to agree with entomom on this one. To say that they're unimportant or have negligible weight in the admissions process is just false. They are subordinate to grades and test scores, but are still a component of the package. While a lukewarm or even moderately enthusiastic letter is unlikely to make or break an applicant, a stellar recommendation (or equally bad one) is definitely enough to tip the scales either way. A recommendation from a college professor carries substantial weight because the professor is in an excellent position to determine whether or not a student is academically viable at a similar institution and is essentially a peer of most admissions committee members.
I realize that medical school admissions are a different game entirely from undergraduate or transfer admissions, but the basics are the same. I asked my dad, who is a medical school admissions officer, about this and he said that recommendations are VERY important and give you a greater sense of how the applicants interact intellectually and personally with faculty members. They tell a great deal about applicants and often make the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Last edited by wayward_trojan; 12-18-2009 at 12:53 PM.