Was the Father of Relativity really a bad student?
If history gauged brilliance by academic excellence, then Albert Einstein would be considered a high school drop-out and perhaps even worse, since he couldn't pass the exam to get into technical high school where he hoped to receive training in electrical engineering. Einstein was 15 years old when he left school due to bad grades in most every class.
After failing his entrance exam to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, he finished his high school studies in Arau, Switzerland at the advice of the Principal of the Polytechnic. Einstein hoped from there to matriculate into Technical High School in Zurich upon which he had set his sights.
How did Einstein, without the intellectual and psychological back-up of living in a university academic environment, develop the Theory of Relativity?
Here is what Einstein said about his plans in his own words:
"If I were to have the good fortune to pass my examinations, I would go to Zurich. I would stay there for four years in order to study mathematics and physics. I imagine myself becoming a teacher in those branches of the natural sciences, choosing the theoretical part of them. Here are the reasons which lead me to this plan. Above all, it is my disposition for abstract and mathematical thought, and my lack of imagination and practical ability."
(Einstein received a grade of "C" for this paper about his ambitions)
Einstein had great difficulty achieving a decent teaching post. His friends then tried to get him a job as Director of the Patent Office. Instead, he was hired as a temp patent clerk, Third Class.