I understand that Upenn is need aware, but after consulting with my parents we've concluded that we can pay 40-45k USD max. (taking 83k as COA), how badly will this affect my chances in context with my demographic. Would it be better to apply with minimum financial aid and then take a loan (in India itself) to maximize my chances.
It's tough to answer just how much of an impact it will have on your chances. So you've probably seen this but if not, check out this link: https://admissions.upenn.edu/admissions-and-financial-aid/cost-and-financial-aid. It mentions UPenn is need-aware for international students, which you knew, and it mentions you would receive 100% of your demonstrated need.
Take a look here as well: https://srfs.upenn.edu/financial-aid/international. UPenn gives out $10 million to international students per year. If you need $40k a year to be able to afford UPenn that is less than .5% of what the school gives out annually. Having said that, I have no idea what the average demonstrated financial need is for an international student accepted to UPenn so it's tough to compare if $40k a year is reasonable for them or not. I would like to think it's pretty reasonable but I can't say for sure. Here's just another helpful link which you've probably seen: https://srfs.upenn.edu/financial-aid/international-faq.
It doesn't really sound like you can apply with minimum financial aid. It's basically either 1) I don't need aid or 2) I need aid and if you're accepted 100% of your need will be met. If there is an in-between I can't find it. UPenn also explicitly states they will turn a student away if they cannot provide aid, even if they would have otherwise been admitted. "Penn will not admit a financial aid candidate for whom we cannot provide aid. As a result, some candidates we would otherwise want to admit will be turned away."
So, I guess this comes down to more of a personal decision for you and your family. You will have better odds if you say you don't need aid. How much better? No idea honestly. Without knowing how UPenn makes the decisions it's tough to say. Maybe they prefer taking a lot of students who don't need much aid. Maybe they splurge on some top students and see what is left over and then make their decisions for the rest. I wish I knew so I could give a better answer. I personally don't think $40k a year in aid is unreasonable and I wouldn't be surprised if many people usually need more than that.
You essentially need to decide if taking out $160k+ in loans is worth a possible increase in your chances. That is A LOT of money and something you will have over your head for a long time. If you think it will be worth it in the long run that's awesome - I would apply without aid. If having 6 figures of debt as a 20-something scares you then maybe it's better to roll the dice and apply with aid. I personally would apply with aid.
EDIT: I also just realized you may have meant your family can afford $40-45k total for all 4 years. If that's the case you're looking at ~$275,000 that either UPenn or you will need to come up with over 4 years. For UPenn that's around .6875% of what they give out every year for international students. Again, I don't have numbers to compare to so I don't know if that's a lot or a little compared to what they typically give a student. But, what I do know is $275,000 is a lot in loans so if you decide to go that route I strongly encourage you to make the absolute most of your time at UPenn so you can land a killer job.
EDIT 2: I was lazy and missed some key info. Check out this: https://unsp.upenn.edu/ways-to-give/international-financial-aid/. Looks like 26% of international students receive financial aid. On average they receive $63,000 for the academic year so you're not far off from what they normally award. Knowing that info I would probably apply for aid. However, and maybe you guessed this already, I don't like loans and would do whatever I could to avoid needing them so I might be a bit biased there.
There is nothing wrong with applying for financial aid, to be really honest, depending on your test scores and essays, you will have around a 55-85 percent chance of getting some sort of financial aid if you apply. It is always better to try and not get aid, rather than to not try and lose the chance to get aid. Admissions will not look at your financial status until after they have decided to accept you, thus, look at your options and the courses you are trying for. Prices for college change for the type of courses and the final degree you are aiming for. Hope this helps.
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