Saoirse Cowley applied to read English at University College, Oxford, in part because the college offers bursaries to pupils from schools with limited success at getting people into Oxford. She was also eligible for an Oxford University bursary.
"I am a lot better off than friends at other universities," she said.
"It is really important to apply to Oxford if you face financial difficulties as there is a lot of support available, both financial and academic."
Although Ms Cowley has taken out a student loan, she has no overdraft and no outstanding payments on her credit card.
"I've got a fantastic holiday job with the Vivienne Westwood shop in Manchester, but I only have to work part time because of the bursaries.
"This will be really important at Easter when I am revising for exams," Ms Cowley said.
The Oxford bursary is worth £1,000 in the first year and £500 in subsequent years.
The University College bursary works out at about £1,300 a year.
"I've been able to buy books - core texts - with bursary money," Ms Cowley said.
"You receive the Oxford bursary automatically, and I know many people in receipt of them. There is no stigma attached."