We had 18 students choose to write letters. As a colleague began reading letter six, he realized that he was reading the same sentences he had just read in letter five! We had not given that one full points as it was rather puffed up and was not well personalized, but here was the same stuff about striving for a position in top management (a strange thing, as our program is not for management but for media computing) and ended with a flowery sentiment about knowing that our Fakultät (strange, we have Fachbereiche) only had a set number of places and how they were sure that they could contribute to the program.
We dug out letter five, each grabbed a laptop and started googling. He won - in about 4.5 seconds he turned up a web page on how to write a motivational letter. And there were all the bits and pieces, slightly reworded here and there.
We were pissed.
Here we are sitting in a hot, hot room spending an entire day doing all this work, and they can't be bothered to write a page themselves about why they want to study with us. We contacted the admissions department, we were only allowed to give them 0 points for this part of the application process. I would just as soon reject them with a letter stating why and publish their names somewhere, there is no excuse for behavior like this, especially when the site itself says:
Nicht kopieren!Right. This shows that they are not even capable of following directions. Do I want them in our program? No way.
Lasst euch von den Beispielen in diesem Text inspirieren, aber kopiert sie nicht. Wir haben Rückmeldungen von Hochschulen bekommen, dass bis zu 20% der Bewerber Formulierungen aus diesem Text nutzen. Das lässt euch nicht gut aussehen. Textet also selbst - es ist in eurem eigenen Interesse.
You can get inspired by this text, but don't copy it. We have heard from schools that up to 20 % of the applicants use sentences from this text. You don't look good that way. Write yourself - it is in your own interest.
We continued. Guess what motivation letter #12 was like? Yup. A THIRD copy of this self-same letter. S/he was given 0 points as well.
Out of 18 letters, 3 were obvious plagiarisms, or 16,6 %. For a Master's program!! Two plagiarists didn't make the cut, but one had so many other points s/he will be offered a slot. Let me tell you something, dude: I will be speaking about plagiarism at orientation. And I will be watching you.
I had heard that the States was having terrible trouble with people handing in plagiarized letters, or Mom and Dad writing them. I am completely at a loss to understand why anyone would do such a stupid thing, especially in a Germany that has been discussing plagiarism for over two years.