Andrea Norton, 20, was among a group of Briar Cliff University students who travelled to Hawksbill Crag in Arkansas' Ozark National Forest on Sunday morning as part of a class activity, Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said.
Some outlets have said Norton was trying to take a photo when she fell from the popular hiking destination, CBS News noted, but Norton's mother, Tamara Norton - who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment - has denied the claims, saying that a previous ankle injury may have caused Norton's fall.
Witnesses said she was taking a selfie and fell when she repositioned her feet. First responders recovered Andrea's body by rappelling down the cliff and bringing her up in a litter.
Andrea was hiking with her classmates from Briar Cliff University when the accident happened.
The area is known for being a great place to snap a photo but several people have died in the hiking area in the past few years, Wheeler told CBS News.
In a Facebook post Saturday night, the university called Norton "a passionate environmental science major, exemplary student and dedicated athlete".
Ms Norton was a triple major in biology, environmental science and had petitioned the school for an associate degree in global studies according to her obituary. Her volleyball team expressed its condolences. The sheriff says Andrea Norton goes to school in Sioux City, Iowa. "Everybody talks about that light" in her whether or not they knew the meaning of her names.
Norton attended Briar Cliff under scholarship for symphony choir and women's volleyball, her obituary says. Andrea also "embodied BCU's values in everything she did including her compassion for all, a love for the environment and an openness to everyone she met", BCU said in a press release.