Deah Barakat, 23, a second-year student in UNC's School of Dentistry, married Yusor Mohammad, 21, in December, and Mohammad planned to begin her dental studies in the fall, authorities said. Her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, was a sophomore at North Carolina State University.
Gunshots were reported after 5 p.m. in the Finley Forest condominiums in Chapel Hill, east of the University of North Carolina campus, police said.
Namee Barakat, father of victim Deah Barakat, told ABC News from his home in Raleigh that his son was "always smiling." He described his son and daughter-in-law, who met as undergrads at N.C. State, as "bright, intelligent, thoughtful, generous and loving."
He said Abu-Salah, from Raleigh, was visiting her sister.
A spokesman from the North Carolina State University said Abu-Salha was majoring in design and on the dean's list for the fall 2014 semester. The university spokesman said Barakat and Mohammad were alumnae of the school.
"It is with great sadness I share with you the news that the three victims of a shooting yesterday evening near the UNC Chapel Hill campus include a current and two former NC State students," NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement.
Barakat graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in business administration in May 2013. Yusor Mohammad graduated cum laude with a B.S. in biological sciences in December 2014, school officials said.
Barakat and ten local dentists and faculty from UNC School of Dentistry were planning a trip this summer to Rihaniya, Turkey, to provide dental care to students there, according to his fundraising page. Barakat was featured in a fundraising video to raise money for the trip.
"Deah and Yusor were exemplary students and activists who believed in humanity and helping people in need," Dr. Zaher Sahloul, the president of the Syrian American Medical Society, said in a statement. "Deah and Yusor felt that they had to do their part to help the Syrian people suffering, and fight the apathy of rest of the world. Their remarkable work and lives will never be forgotten."
Last summer, Mohammad traveled to Kilis, Turkey, to volunteer in dental relief, according to a Facebook memorial page for the victims.
Barakat tweeted about basketball and various fundraisers for Syrian refugees, including a charitable basketball tournament.
Razan Abu-Salah was recognized by her university two weeks ago for her artistic ability in a time-lapse video of 3-D abstract model-making.
Thousands gathered at "the Pit," a popular courtyard beside the student union, for a vigil to mourn the three, ABC TV station WTVD in Durham reported.
Police are also investigating whether this was a hate crime, though neighbors told authorities that Hicks had an ongoing dispute with the victims.