In Depth (and how to choose one)

Everyone has a special hobby – a hobby that they’d love to pursue, but just don’t have time for. Maybe it’s not even a hobby, but just an activity, or skill they’d like to try. The point is, everyone has something they’d love to do, if they only had more time.

A common way of dealing with this hobby is to put it in the closet. That sounds crazy, right? People just take this amazing skill they’d like to pursue, and hide it away, trying to tell themselves that they don’t have time. Often, these hobbies are the last thing on people’s lists. They always tell themselves that it’s not important, and that they’ll get to it later. I know that I, for sure, have done that, many times before.

Other people will try to jam this hobby into a really small space. They’ll try playing the guitar for just 5 minutes, realize it’s hard and make irrational excuses like “I’m no good at it, so I might as well not try”. Instead of ruling out time, they rule out their capability.

Sometimes, these hobbies just get drowned out, by “more important” time-wasters in people’s lives. For example, have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in front of the television, thinking that you don’t have time for other activities?

In-Depth is a chance to conquer all of these invalid excuses. It’s a chance to take this hobby and make it an “important” item on your checklist of things to do. It starts with picking something you’d like to do. And when choosing what it will be, this would be my advice:

1. Choose something you care about

This is the most important part of the In-Depth selection process. In-Depth will suck if you don’t choose something you enjoy, or think you would enjoy. What you need to realize is that this is your opportunity after all these years to choose to do something youlove, and call it homework. Why choose something that’s boring? Being forced (or having an excuse) to do something you absolutely love, but have never had time for is one of the best scenarios you’ll get in your life (other than getting a fantastic job).

2. Choose something new

If you already play guitar, that’s awesome! But why play guitar for In-Depth, when you will already be playing outside of school anyways? I understand that it would be a time saver or make everything easier, but you already know how! In-Depth is a chance to try something entirely new, have time for it, have motivation for it, and always have support for it. Think about it this way – you’re going to go ahead and play guitar or play soccer or dance anyways, so why waste your In-Depth time doing that?

3. Choose something exciting

This may seem like a no-brainer (not to) but sometimes people choose “academic” In-Depths in hope of getting credits, or in hope of improving their subject skills. In-Depth is supposed to be fun and exciting! I know that getting credits in French would be really helpful and all, but do you really want to spend 5 months repeating vocabulary when you could be riding a unicycle or learning swordplay? Of course, if you have a passion for French, go for it! But don’t take it telling yourself that you need more credits. You’re in TALONS! You already have lots of extra courses and no doubt will take many more. You have 4 years of high school – you don’t need to fit every single one in now. In-Depth is an opportunity to take a break and have fun. You’d be stupid not to.

4. Choose something realistic

If you’ve taken all of the advice above, you’ll be doing an In-Depth you love. The next step is setting goals – achievable ones. Even though you will be investing lots of time into this project, you don’t have 15 years to work on a literary masterpiece – you have 5 months. Choose something that’s within this universe. For example (in 5 months), you can’t grow a tree, you can’t write a full album of songs, and you can’t juggle torches on a 15 foot high unicycle. It’s just not possible. But you can nurture a bonsai tree, you can write a few songs, and you can learn to juggle/unicycle. At the same time, make sure it lasts 5 full months. You don’t want to take lessons on how to carve for two months, then realize you have nothing left to do. In-Depth is about autonomous learning – sure, lessons are cool, but don’t rely on them for your entire In-Depth.

If you don’t know what might be realistic, ask! You have endless social media resources, endless websites full of information, even friends, relatives and teachers – endless human resources. Don’t say “It’s too hard to do this”. Go say “How long did it take you build that computer, Mr. Toering?”. You gotta remember, you have the resources. Why not use them?

At the same time, don’t pick something that is too obscure. Of course, it’s great to be unique but scrambling for resources your entire In-Depth is quite a challenge. Before you go ahead and write a proposal, check to make sure that ‘Training your Goldfish’ is a plausible skill to learn, and that there are people who know how to do it.

Lastly, you don’t have millions of dollars (unless you’re investing). Be reasonable with how much your parents will spend on you, and your crazy skill you’d like to pursue.

6. Pick it because you want to

Don’t just pick an In-Depth because everyone else thinks it would be awesome. Don’t just pick an In-Depth because you’re pressured for time. If you’re a guy, and you wanna do origami, go for it! It doesn’t matter how much your bros are telling you its for woosies. If you’re a girl, don’t be afraid to break the stereotypes and build a computer. Make sure whatever you pick what you want to pick. After all, it is your In-Depth Project, right?


  1. Thanks, Andrew for this amazing piece of advice for in-depth projects. This is the first post that I am going to ask all new talons to read before they pick their subject/ topic/ area of interest for their in-depths next year. Thank you for sharing your insights as a soon to become Talons alumni.
    Q. Mulder ten Kate

  2. Too long, Mr. Chang…

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