Delia Lewis took up the eastern dance for fun. Then performances in a restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, and at private parties helped pay the bills while she studied at Croydon college.
But her talent also made an impression on her interviewer at the all-female St Hilda's college.
"I told them how it had influenced me to do anthropology, and that I really hope there is a belly dancing society here because I want to be its president. She laughed, but I was serious," she said.
The 21-year-old from Mitcham in Surrey, who had dropped out of A-levels two years ago, was offered a place to study archaeology and anthropology.
She passed her one-year access to higher education course with the highest possible mark.
As she looks forward to going to Oxford, thousands of A-level students were awaiting their results this week. The pass rate this year has risen to 96.2 per cent, reigniting the debate about grade inflation.