If you’ve ever been struggling with a college course (such as organic chemistry), someone has likely recommended “going to office hours” as a stock piece of advice.
But going to office hours by itself will not help you succeed in a college class. Not even if the Professor drops some gems about what will be on the test (although that might get you a few points…).
In reality, the benefit of office hours actually has very little to do with the time spent with the Professor. Instead, the vast majority of the benefit occurs in the preparation for office hours.
How could that possibly be? Let’s talk through a situation.
Today’s Friday. You’ve officially decided you’re going to be proactive this year in organic chemistry, so you’ll be at office hours on Monday.
But first, you have to find some good questions to ask. So you study throughout the weekend, and really pick apart the material you’re reading. You’re looking for thoughtful questions that won’t cause eye-rolling from the Professor and other students. When you come across a potential question, you first think it through, and try to solve it before writing it down as something to ask.
This is an example of active learning, the most effective and efficient way to study material.
Creating thoughtful questions is an extremely effective active study technique and going to office hours forces you to create these deep questions. Of course, while the answer to these questions is valuable, the most critical part of the whole process is the deep learning you do to think of the questions.
TL;DR: Coming up with thoughtful questions for office hours is a highly actionable way to force yourself to study actively.