Statistics published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show there were 10,370 by this year’s January deadline – down from 17,240 in 2020.
Applications fell 51% from 39,730 to 19,480.
University representatives said the declines were to be expected now that free tuition for EU students has come to an end following Brexit.
UCAS figures also indicate a sharp rise in applicants from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, with the number increasing by 15%.
The proportion of Scottish 18-year-olds who made an application was up 3.9% to 35.8%.
Richard Lochhead, Further and Higher Education Minister.
And applications from outside the EU surged by 27% – the highest jump across the four nations of the UK.
Commenting on the UCAS data, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said: “Students clearly see a value at studying in Scotland from across the world all the way to our most deprived areas.”
He added: “The drop in EU student numbers is not as dramatic as many feared although we don’t know how this will impact individual universities and courses.
“This makes the need for scholarships for EU students from the Scottish Government even more vital.”
Acknowledging the drop in EU applicants, which he said was an “inevitable consequence” of leaving the bloc, Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “We will continue to work with our international partners to strengthen our education and research relationships through scholarships and by promoting Scottish learning and research globally, recognising the ongoing importance of our close relationships with our European neighbours.”