A recommendation is a formal piece of writing. It's purpose is to endorse the student; so it letter must be lucid, well-structured, and specific.
What's the point of a college essay? If you know what admissions officers are looking for, it's surprisingly easy to give it to them in just four or five hours. If you don't, it's common to spend tens of hours honing and refining an essay that flops.
What the data says about whether or not to submit your test scores at test-optional colleges — warning: the data is sparse (not that it stopped us from digging in deeply).