Grammar schools have just two days left to inform the Education Authority about how they will select next year's new pupils.
But despite calls from a group of 25 youth charities for urgent and clear instructions on what the criteria should look like, schools are largely being left to their own devices.
And in many cases the decision on whether a child could attend a chosen school could come down to the drawing of lots, with many who are oversubscribed likely to cite random selection as a key part of the process.
While some schools did publish alternative admission criteria earlier this year in the event of the transfer tests being cancelled, there has been no confirmation yet on whether they will be amended ahead of Friday's deadline.
Grammar schools can now effectively choose whatever new admissions criteria they wish in the absence of transfer tests.
But lawyers have stressed a need to ensure fairness and that children are not unlawfully discriminated against.
Failure to do this could lead to further disruption and legal challenges, which the Children's Law Centre has warned the department about in a letter sent to Education Minister Peter Weir on behalf of 25 registered youth charities.
Rachel Hogan, a lawyer at the Children's Law Centre, said the department has provided mere guidance, rather than a full and firm checklist.
That guidance criteria states that, in descending order of importance, priority should go to applicants entitled to free school meals first.
Applicants from a feeder/named primary school are next, while geographic criteria is then applied, favouring applicants living in a particular parish or near the school.
Applicants who have a sibling currently attending the school are next, followed by any unspecified "tie-breaker criteria".
"Ultimately schools can use any criteria they like", said Mrs Hogan. "But if they do opt for different criteria, they may face legal challenges and the department would not cover costs if they lost.
"It's now time for the department to get it sorted out quickly. People need to be directed in an emergency. There is a duty to ensure this is fair and does not unlawfully discriminate," she said.
"Failure to act could lead to further disruption as a result of legal challenges and further emotional stress."
The department said admissions are a matter for boards of governors. "They must, however, 'have regard to' this guidance when drafting these criteria," it said. Governors, then, will be treading carefully in these final two days of decision-making.