Student persistence in the first year of studies is a crucial concern in online higher education. Recent accelerated growth in online programs due to the COVID pandemic has increased concerns over higher dropout rates, which are often connected to students’ time challenges—time poverty, juggling multiple commitments, and fitting studies into busy lives. However, research seldom focuses on students’ perceptions of time issues related to persistence. This study addresses this gap by exploring how 20 second-year students retrospectively viewed their experiences of time challenges and how they impacted their persistence in their first year at an online open university. Content analysis of in-depth interviews demonstrated that time pressure and time-conflicts were crucial barriers for success in the foundational semester; the main barrier was juggling study with multiple priorities. Most persisters had good time management and high levels of intrinsic motivation, satisfaction, and self-determination. However, even procrastinators with heavy work-family duties managed to persevere due to their resilience and personal motivation. Lastly, recommendations and strategies for effective student-based interventions to foster persistence are suggested.