In almost every course I teach, I receive an email a few days before the final assignment is due from a student in a panic because they do not think they can complete it in time. Most of them buckle down and get the assignment done, but some give up and do not turn it in. Instead, they resign themselves to the fact that they will have to retake the course. In those instances, waiting until the last minute is a costly mistake.
Some classes will have assignments in the course designed to help students prepare for the final assignment, but in those classes where this is not part of the curriculum, there is no reason why you cannot develop a plan to complete your final papers in smaller steps over several weeks.
Throughout a course, many students wait until the day an assignment is due to begin working on it. While I never suggest doing this, some students are able to get away with doing their work last minute and do fine… until the final paper, that is. They sit down to write what they think is going to be another 2 to 3-page paper only to realize that it is 5 to 7 pages and requires more research than just referring to their textbooks. Now, anxiety sets in, and they rush to do the best they can with the limited time they have.
As with any assignment, the best approach is to look ahead and plan out the steps to complete the paper or project. For the final assignment, I suggest this be done at least two weeks in advance, so you know how much work is going to be necessary. How many pages are required? How many references are you expected to cite? Where will you find these references? You need to know these things in order to plan your time.
In addition, you may have questions about the assignment and expectations, and it may take a day or two to get your questions answered.
There is no need to stress about a final paper or project. The truth is this anxiety can be avoided if a plan is put in place to complete the final assignment. A couple of weeks before the assignment is due, look ahead and develop a plan on how you will get everything done. Planning ahead will also allow a little leeway if other things come up that disrupt your plan.